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Scrub typhus cases a worry in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, July 11, 2022(BPNS)

The surge in scrub typhus cases has become a cause for concern in the state. While nine confirmed cases got reported on Monday, in this month alone 48 confirmed cases and one death has been reported. In the case of cumulative tally in the year, it is 229 cases and four deaths. Though scrub typhus is a life-threatening infectious disease, the disease manifestations vary from mild or asymptomatic infection to severe potentially fatal illness. Also, it is being pointed out that lack of awareness coupled with a misconception about the disease has resulted in getting infected and sometimes loss of life.

“A plan was there to launch a grass-root level campaign with the help of local bodies to make people aware of the disease. But it is yet to be materialized. Also, health staff should be on alert when diagnosing because 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.

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 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 the 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.

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.