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 Trench Fever?

By Amanda R. Bell
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.

Trench fever is the result of a bartonella quintana infection typically found in the feces of lice and the saliva of certain spiders, mites, fleas, and ticks. Also known as the five day fever, urban trench fever and quintan fever, it can last for up to three months. Symptoms include exceedingly high fever of up to 104° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius) and extreme leg pain. While trench fever is rare outside of the homeless population, it affected nearly one million soldiers during World War I.

Body lice, typically found where personal hygiene is lacking, is the most common transmitters of trench fever. Soldiers who served during WWI were often fighting in trenches for long periods of time, forgoing bathing and leaving themselves prone to body lice and the consequent infection. During both World War I and World War 2, trench fever among soldiers was extremely high, and typically caused the men to be incapacitated for months. Today, those without access to running water or personal hygiene items, especially homeless people and refugees, are most commonly afflicted with trench fever.

Symptoms can manifest by a high fever, severe headaches, leg pain, and oftentimes a rash on the upper body. While it can be confused with a regular fever, this illness is unique in that it causes the patient to continuously relapse over a five-day period. Symptoms typically come on quickly; the patient's condition can progressively get better for five days, at which point the symptoms appear again. This cycle can go on for upwards of three months, although the average recovery time is one month.

This disease is typically treated with a seven-to-10-day course of antibiotics, most commonly doxycycline. Since reported cases are rare, there is little research on what the best course of treatment might actually be. Outside of medication, those who contract the infection are usually advised to improve their living conditions and cleanliness in order to avoid becoming infected again.

Despite its long recovery time, the infection is only considered fatal among those suffering from alcoholism or severe heart problems. The high fever caused by this disease can, in rare cases, lead to heart failure — which alcoholics and those who already have heart issues are already prone to. There have been reported cases of trench fever on every continent, excluding Antarctica where the extreme cold makes transmission nearly impossible. Cases of trench fever are rare, however, and, if contracted, the disease is very treatable.

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.