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Scrub Typhus: Symptoms, treatment and preventive tips

Several cases of a mystery fever have been reported in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, particularly in Koh village.

According to an Indian Express report, Agra Divisional Commissioner Amit Gupta said that some deaths had also been reported. These deaths were attributed to scrub typhus, which, like dengue, is a vector borne disease, but which is caused by bacteria, not virus.

Scrub typhus

Dr Harish Chafle, senior consultant and chest physician at Global Hospital, Mumbai, explains that scrub typhus is a disease caused by a bacteria called Orientia tsutsugamushi. It is also known as bush typhus. It is spread to people through bites of infected chiggers (larval mites).

According to National Health Portal (NHP), scrub typhus is prevalent in many parts of India, including outbreaks in the sub-Himalayan belt, from Jammu to Nagaland. In 2003-04 and 2007, there were reports of outbreaks in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Darjeeling.

Symptoms of scrub typhus

Some of the common symptoms are fever, headache, body aches, and sometimes, rash. One may also notice a “dark, scab-like region at the site of the chigger bite”, mental changes ranging from confusion to coma or enlarged lymph nodes, says Dr Chafle. “People with severe illness may develop organ failure and bleeding, which can be fatal if left untreated,” the doctor adds.

Antibiotics are most effective if given soon after symptoms begin, says the doctor. “Scrub typhus should be treated with the antibiotic doxycycline. Doxycycline can be used in persons of any age. People who are treated early with doxycycline usually recover quickly.”

Prevention

No vaccine is available to prevent scrub typhus. Here are some preventive tips recommended by Dr Chafle:

*Reduce your risk of getting scrub typhus by avoiding contact with infected chiggers.

*When travelling to areas where scrub typhus is common, avoid areas with lots of vegetation and bush where chiggers may be found.

If you will be spending time outdoors:

*Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents external icon containing DEET or other active ingredients registered for use against chiggers, on exposed skin and clothing.

*Always follow product instructions.

*Reapply insect repellent as directed.

*Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

*If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.

If you have a baby or child:

*Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.

*Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, or mouth or on cuts or irritated skin.

*Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to the child’s face.

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