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Kerala plans grass-root level campaign against scrub typhus

- June 14, 2022

Thiruvananthapuram, June 14 (BPNS)

The state health department is planning to launch grass-root level awareness of the scrub typhus disease. This follows upon the assessment that lack of awareness coupled with a misconception about the disease has resulted in getting infected and sometimes loss of life. Scrub typhus, also known as bush typhus, is a zoonotic disease caused by a bacteria called Orientia tsutsugamushi. It is spread to people through bites of infected chiggers (larval mites).

“The problem is that dengue, malaria, scrub typhus, and leptospirosis present with almost similar clinical manifestations. Now, Covid-19 is also there. Sometimes chances of co-infection are also there. Thus getting the diagnosis right is important. Also to seek medical attention without delay is crucial,” said an officer of the health department.

The common symptoms of scrub typhus include fever, headache, body aches, and sometimes rash. It is said that if left untreated it might turn fatal as it will result in organ failure and bleeding.

According to National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), people usually get infected when they visit an ecological niche called Mite islands – the favored areas where these mites and their chigger (larvae) thrive.

The aforementioned favored areas include poorly maintained kitchen gardens, abandoned plantations, overgrown forest clearings, shrubby fringes of fields and forests, grassy fields, river banks, and sandy beaches. Mites are also present in the body of animals such as mice and rats.

“If one has an acute undifferentiated febrile illness with fever more than five days and if not dengue, malaria and typhoid, then suspect its scrub typhus. It’s usually confirmed by serological test or molecular diagnosis or by isolation of the organism. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease and if contracted it is treated with antibiotics doxycycline and azithromycin,” said NCDC.

According to state health officials, various platforms including social media will be used to disseminate information regarding the disease including its etiology, investigations, and treatment. The awareness programme will also highlight complications like pneumonia, myocarditis, encephalitis, acute renal failure, and others that are likely to develop if left untreated.

Earlier, in a study conducted by Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu it was highlighted that early diagnosis and prompt treatment can significantly reduce complications and mortality due to scrub typhus. Also, establishing good surveillance and instituting appropriate control measures are urgently needed.

At the same time, following the second scrub typhus death in the state, health and animal husbandry departments assessed the situation. It was also decided to seek the help of Harithakarma Sena, Asha workers, and volunteers for awareness and control measures. The second death was reported on June 12 from Ayingamam in Parasuvaikkal, Parassala.

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Confirmed cases and deaths reported in Kerala: scrub typhus

2022 (till June 13) – 136 and 2

2021 – 438 and 6

2020 – 423 and 8

2019 – 579 and 14

2018 – 400 and 6