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 Typhus Fever?

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.

Typhus fever is a potentially life-threatening type of infection caused by bacteria in the Rickettsia genus. The bacteria are carried by lice, mites, and ticks, and are transferred to a human host when he or she is bitten by an infected insect. In addition to inducing a very high fever, infection can also cause extreme fatigue, chills, coughing, headaches, and skin rashes. Typhus fever occurs worldwide and is a significant cause of death in some regions with poor sanitation and little access to quality health-care. When the disease is recognized early, it can usually be treated with strong antibiotics.

Rickettsia bacteria mature and thrive in the digestive tracts of several parasitic insects. Human lice, fleas that inhabit pets and rodents, and mites are all potential hosts. When such an insect bites a human, it deposits trace amounts of feces that is laden with Rickettsia. Scratching the bite can transfer bacteria into the wound and give pathogens an opportunity to enter the bloodstream. Within a few days of the initial infection, bacteria spread throughout the body and begin causing symptoms.

People who live in crowded, unsanitary communities are at the highest risk of catching typhus fever. Poor personal hygiene and a lack of modern bathroom facilities increase the chances of becoming infested with lice and transmitting the parasites to other people. Disease-causing fleas can thrive in areas infested with rats, raccoons, and other pests.

The symptoms of typhus fever can include chills, joint and muscle pain, severe headaches, and a dry cough. Fevers higher than 105°F (about 40.5°C) are common and may induce fatigue, weakness, and mental confusion. A person may also experience an itchy skin rash that typically begins on the torso and spreads across a large portion of the body. Left untreated, a severe case of typhus fever can cause life-threatening damage to vital organs, including the kidneys and lungs.

Most cases of typhus fever can be diagnosed based on physical exams and the results of blood work. Blood tests may reveal the presence Rickettsia pathogens and deficiencies in immune system activity. If a patient is in critical condition, he or she may need to be hospitalized to receive intravenous fluids and breathing assistance. Treatment with tetracycline, doxycycline, or similar antibiotics is started right away and continued for about two weeks. Patients who receive immediate care are usually able to completely recover from their symptoms in less than one 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.