Symptoms and Signs of Typhus

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 6/3/2019

Doctor's Notes on Typhus

The term typhus (or typhus fevers) is the name of a group of bacterial infectious diseases that spread to humans by lice, chiggers, and fleas (vectors). The three main types are scrub typhus, endemic typhus (also termed murine typhus), and epidemic typhus. In general, all forms of typhus produce symptoms of fever, headache, body aches, and rash. However, each type may produce additional signs and symptoms. Scrub typhus may produce a scab-like lesion at the site of a chigger bite and enlarged lymph nodes. Severe infections can result in mental changes like confusion, coma, or death. Endemic typhus symptoms and signs include malaise, high fever, cough, joint pain, abdominal pain, and back pain. Epidemic typhus has similar symptoms to endemic typhus but more severe. The rash may cover the entire body except the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet; delirium, stupor, bleeding into the skin, low blood pressure, shock, and death may occur.

The cause of scrub typhus is from a chigger bite infected with the bacteria Orientia tsutsugamushi. The cause of endemic typhus is when flea feces, infected with Rickettsia typhi, are rubbed into cuts or skin scrapes. Body lice, infected with Rickettsia prowazekii, cause epidemic typhus when they obtain a blood meal from a human and transmit the bacteria. Early treatment with doxycycline is an effective treatment for all bacterial causes.

Must Read Articles:


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.