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How To Identify Scrub Typhus And Prevent It?

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Recently, reports of new cases of fever due to a strange infection have started emerging from some districts in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Alarmingly this infection, which scientists have identified as Scrub Typhus, is a disease that has become a rarity in recent times. With reports of the Scrub Typhus disease emerging in Northern India again, it is essential to be aware and stay safe! Read on to know more about the safety measures and symptoms of this fever.

What is Scrub Typhus? 

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains Scrub Typhus as a disease caused by the bacteria called Orientia tsutsugamushi. This is a rickettsial disease (not to be confused with bone development disease rickets) that occurs when a person is bitten by infected mite larvae called ‘chiggers’. 

These mites predominantly breed in bushy areas or scrubs, therefore the disease is also called Bush Typhus. Reports suggest that the chiggers are rapidly spreading due to the heavy rain experienced by some parts of India in the past months. Once infected, the average incubation period for this bacteria is 10-12 days within which one can start experiencing symptoms. People with immunity disorders are more prone to severe symptoms due to this infection. 

Signs and Symptoms of Scrub Typhus 

A telltale sign for doctors to identify whether a person is afflicted with Scrub Typhus or not is based on some lab tests and to check for ‘eschars’. Eschars are bite marks that are characterised by their dark colour due to dead tissue in the affected body part. Chigger bites are painless and symptoms can help identify whether someone has scrub typhus or not. Some of the common symptoms include: 

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Mental changes. It can start with confusion and even lead to coma in severe cases.
  • Enlargement of lymph nodes
  • Rashes 
  • Body aches 
  • Joint aches 

Scrub Typhus symptoms can start developing as early as 4-5 days after the bacteria enter the body. If left untreated, the infection can be fatal since it may affect your respiratory system, kidneys, brain and can even lead to multi-organ failure. This disease needs instant medical care. 

How to treat Scrub Typhus? 

If a person is suspected to have Scrub Typhus and encounters any of the symptoms of the disease, a doctor should be consulted immediately. If the disease is identified early then it can be cured quite easily with the help of antibiotic medication. Scrub Typhus treatment takes effect quickly and people recover within a few days of receiving the dose of antibiotics. 

Scrub Typhus treatment may need to be accompanied by treatment for other ailments too which occur in the case of advanced stages of the bacterial infection. 

Precautions for Scrub Typhus

The easiest way to prevent scrub typhus is to avoid bushy areas or regions with dense vegetation that are damp or water-logged. However, if you need to travel and work in such areas there are preventive measures that you can take. 

  • Wear clothing that covers the legs properly so that the chiggers cannot come in direct contact with your skin. 
  • Always wash your arms and legs thoroughly after any outdoor activity. 
  • Wear shoes that completely enclose your feet if you are going near damp areas with bushes. 
  • Try applying organic insect repellants on your clothes or skin before you head out of the house. 
  • If you are travelling to parks or gardens with a baby, always ensure that they are in the stroller. Cover the stroller with mosquito nets for protection. 
  • Make sure that there are no rodents like mice or rats in your home.

Conclusion 

Scrub Typhus is an infection that thrives during the monsoon as these larvae do not survive during the summers or winters. Take precautions when going outdoors and you can prevent this infection. All chigger bites do not cause infection (only infected chiggers pass on the typhus bacteria) however, always visit a doctor if you see bite marks on your body or experience fever or any other scrub typhus symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment are important. Do not ignore trying to self diagnose or ignore any fever – it can be due to COVID-19, seasonal flu, dengue, typhoid, malaria, scrub typhus or any other reason and requires diagnosis and treatment by a doctor. Follow all the safety measures and stay healthy. 

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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