An infectious disease instigated by the bacteria Orientia tsutsugamushi, scrub typhus, also known as bush typhus, is an acute febrile illness that could lead to death, if symptoms are not promptly reported and timely medical treatment is not provided.
Scrub typhus induces certain distinguishing signs on the body, namely persistent fever, skin lesions and rashes, along with lymphadenopathy i.e. massive size of lymph nodes. This illness is endemic to, implying it regularly arises in places with widespread scrub or bush vegetation, like parts of Japan, China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, other South-East Asian countries and northern regions of Australia.
Initially categorised along with other bacterial specimens in the Rickettsia genus, the causative organism has since been considered under the Orientia genus. Hence, scrub typhus is also a rickettsial disease presenting similar symptoms of other types of typhus fever, like epidemic louse-borne typhus, endemic murine typhus, but triggered by Orientia strain of bacteria rather than Rickettsia kinds of microbes. In order to completely cure a person with scrub typhus and avert recurrence of the malady, it is important to gain insight into the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the bacterial infection.
Causes Of Scrub Typhus
The bacterial pathogen is transmitted to humans, through bites or stings from trombiculid mite larvae, commonly called chiggers, that transport the Orientia tsutsugamushi microbial strain, similar to tick bites that carry Borrelia bacteria and cause Lyme disease.
Typical indications of scrub typhus begin to present conspicuously only 10 to 12 days post incubation of Orientia bacteria in the body of the person. The noticeable signs of scrub typhus include the following:
Dark scars at the site of chigger bites termed as eschars
Enlarged lymph nodes
The doctor conducts a thorough physical exam to look for any external signs of scrub typhus. He or she also enquires of the area in which the home of the patient is situated, to record if it is surrounded by bush vegetation where chiggers thrive. Moreover, the physician questions the affected person of their recent work-related travel or vacations, to identify if they could have been exposed to the Orientia bacteria in any of those locations.
The healthcare provider conducts a skin biopsy, excising a piece of tissue to look for presence of any bacteria. Blood samples are also collected from the patient and screened, to look for any infectious pathogens that may be present in the serum.
Once the diagnosis of scrub typhus is confirmed in the patient, appropriate treatment has to be given promptly. This is because if left unattended to, scrub typhus could result in grave complications such as hepatitis and gastrointestinal damage, or even prove to be fatal if the bacteria infection invades the entire body.
Treatment involves prescription antibiotics to combat the pathogens in the body and remedy all the discomforting symptoms. In majority of cases, the antibiotics are taken orally, but in serious instances that require the patient to be hospitalized owing to rapid spread of bacteria infection, the antibiotics have to be administered via the intravenous route. This guarantees complete recovery of the patient from scrub typhus, relieving all signs of fever, skin redness and throbbing sensations in the head.
In order to steer clear of scrub typhus, some simple preventive measures are necessary. These consist of:
Keeping the surroundings clean, by disinfecting the house as well as maintaining optimal personal hygiene
Taking immediate actions to eliminate any rodents, like mice and rats that carry mites, chiggers, in and around the place of dwelling
Not travelling to regions where recent episodes of scrub typhus have been reported by a considerable number of the local population