A disease normally seen in more rural areas of India, is being seen with more frequency in the capital city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu state.

Tamil Nadu map/Immanuel Giel
Tamil Nadu map/Immanuel Giel

According to a Times of India report, Infectious diseases specialist Dr V Ramasubramanian says 1 in every 10 fever patients is found to have scrub typhus. “It is a very treatable condition, provided the patient comes in early. We are now seeing people even from posh areas within the city,” he says. The lack of affordable testing facilities for the illness is a dampener for early diagnosis, he points out.

Scrub typhus is a disease that is transmitted by chiggers. Chiggers like to stay at the tips of weeds, waiting for an opportunity to attach to passing humans or animals. Therefore, the chance of becoming infected with scrub typhus is much higher when people walk through bush areas.

After being bitten by the chigger, an eschar will form over the bite, and the incubation period usually ranges from 9 to 12 days.   Subsequently, symptoms such as fever, headache, sweating and swelling or inflammation of the lymph gland will begin to develop.

After having had fever for about 1 week, a dark red papule will appear in the trunk, spread to extremities, and disappear after several days.

Complications of untreated scrub typhus include swelling of the lungs, brain encephalitis, renal failure or even heart problems.

Infectious diseases specialist at Global Hospital Dr Subramanian Swaminathan said,  “Scrub typhus mimics several other ailments like brain infection, pneumonia and lung infections. So it is important that doctors read the symptoms right and look for the eschar.”

It is easily treated with antibiotics (doxycycline).

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