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Epidemic typhus, is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters where civil life is disrupted.[1][2] Epidemic typhus is spread to people through contact with infected body lice, in contrast to endemic typhus which is usually transmitted by fleas.[2][1]The infection is treated with antibiotics. [3]


Symptoms of this disease typically begin within 2 weeks of contact with the causative organism and may include:fever, headache,confusion, rapid breathing, body aches, rash, and nausea.[1]


In terms of complications there are the following: Brill disease (which is a recurent typhus[4]), myocarditis,otitis media, parotitis and pneumonia.[5][6]


Rickettsia prowazekii is a species of gram-negative, alphaproteobacteria, obligate intracellular parasitic, aerobic bacillus bacteria that is the etiologic agent of epidemic typhus. [7]


Feeding on a human who carries the bacterium infects the louse. R. prowazekii grows in the louse's gut and is excreted in its feces. The louse transmits the disease by biting an uninfected human, who scratches the louse bite and rubs the feces into the wound.[8]


In terms of the evaluation of Epidemic typhus we find that it is evaluated clinically and then confirmed serologically; via indirect fluorescence antibody test, plate microagglutination, latex agglutination and enzyme immunoassays.[7]


The infection is treated with antibiotics, while intravenous fluids and oxygen may be needed to stabilize the individual. Tetracycline, chloramphenicol, and doxycycline are the antibiotics commonly used.[3]


Charles Jules Henri Nicolle was a French bacteriologist who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his identification of lice as the transmitter of epidemic typhus.[9][10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Epidemic typhus". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020-11-13. Archived from the original on 2017-03-26. Retrieved 2021-02-27.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Li, Li; Li, Guiying (2015). "Epidemic and Endemic Typhus". Radiology of Infectious Diseases: Volume 2. Springer Netherlands. pp. 89–94. ISBN 978-94-017-9876-1.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brouqui, Philippe (2011-01-01). "Arthropod-Borne Diseases Associated with Political and Social Disorder". Annual Review of Entomology. 56 (1): 357–374. doi:10.1146/annurev-ento-120709-144739. PMID 20822446.
  4. "Epidemic Typhus - Infections". Merck Manual Consumer Version. Retrieved 22 May 2024.
  5. Strelkauskas, Anthony; Edwards, Angela; Fahnert, Beatrix; Pryor, Greg; Strelkauskas, Jennifer (14 July 2015). Microbiology: A Clinical Approach. Garland Science. p. 628. ISBN 978-1-317-33419-4. Archived from the original on 24 July 2023. Retrieved 22 July 2023.
  6. Li, Hongjun (21 August 2015). Radiology of Infectious Diseases: Volume 2. Springer. p. 91. ISBN 978-94-017-9876-1. Archived from the original on 24 July 2023. Retrieved 23 July 2023.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Akram, Sami M.; Ladd, Megan; King, Kevin C. (2024). "Rickettsia Prowazekii". StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
  8. Sahni, A; Fang, R; Sahni, SK; Walker, DH (24 January 2019). "Pathogenesis of Rickettsial Diseases: Pathogenic and Immune Mechanisms of an Endotheliotropic Infection". Annual review of pathology. 14: 127–152. doi:10.1146/annurev-pathmechdis-012418-012800. PMID 30148688. Archived from the original on 13 June 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2023.
  9. Charle, Christophe; Telkes, Eva (1988). "74. Nicolle (Charles, Jules, Henri)". Publications de l'Institut national de recherche pédagogique. 3 (1): 193–195. Archived from the original on 2022-02-28. Retrieved 2023-07-27.
  10. "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1928". Archived from the original on 14 October 2022. Retrieved 18 March 2021.