We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Rickettsial Disease?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Rickettsial disease can refer to one of many different illnesses that is caused by a bacteria-like parasite from the Rickettsia genus. The parasites are carried by ticks, lice, fleas, and other insect hosts, and passed on to humans through direct exposure. Symptoms depend on the type of infection, but most cases of rickettsial disease result in skin rashes, headaches, and fever. Doctors can usually treat infection with oral antibiotics and topical skin rash creams. A serious or untreated case of rickettsial disease can be fatal.

Doctors recognize three main categories of rickettsial disease based on the particular species of parasite involved and the resulting symptoms. Microbes in the typhus group, which are usually carried by lice and fleas, typically cause a mild skin rash on the torso about four days after infection. The rash is painless at first, but usually becomes itchy and painful as it spreads to the arms and legs. The typhus variety of rickettsial disease is rarely life-threatening, though it still needs to be evaluated and treated by a doctor.

Rickettsia microbes in the spotted fever category typically cause more severe symptoms. Infected ticks and mites can transfer microbes to human hosts, resulting in painful rashes that spread from the bite locations. A person is likely to experience fever, chills, muscle pain, and headaches that get worse over the course of about a week. Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting may also occur as microbes spread from the skin to the gastrointestinal tract.

The third category of microbes, the scrub typhus group, is generally isolated to regions of Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Symptoms can vary considerably, but most people experience widespread rashes, confusion, and headaches. Scrub typhus microbes may spread to the lungs, kidneys, or brain, leading to potentially life-threatening inflammation and organ damage.

An individual who experiences possible symptoms of rickettsial disease should be brought to a doctor's office or emergency room as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential to provide the best possible chances for recovery. Blood samples are taken and analyzed to check for the presence of specific natural antibodies, or chemicals released by the immune system to combat infection. Further testing can confirm the specific parasite responsible for symptoms.

Treatment for mild infections usually involves a course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain relievers. A patient may also be given a topical anti-itch cream to alleviate painful skin rashes. Severe symptoms typically require hospitalization and intravenous medications and fluids. Doctors carefully monitor a patient's condition over the course of several days to make sure the infection does not worsen. Heart and lung complications can be avoided in most cases with acute care, and most patients are able to make full recoveries within about a month.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.