Rickettsial Disease

A variety of afflictions are caused by this family of microorganisms. Rickettsia are smaller than bacteria. Most of these illnesses are transmitted by ticks, fleas, or lice. Serologic tests aid in the diagnosis. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is an acute febrile illness caused by a Rickettsial germ. It is transmitted to humans by ticks.

The disease is characterized by sudden onset with headache and chill, with fever that persists for 2 - 3 weeks. A characteristic rash appears on the extremities and migrates to the trunk after about four days of illness. Those who become severely ill develop pain in the bones, delirium, shock, and kidney failure.

Many species of ticks are found infected with this organism. The wood tick is the most common vector in the west and the dog tick in the east. It is important to avoid crushing the tick when removing it from a person or animal. Carefully pull them off or apply heat, as with the head of a match that has just quit burning; or apply kerosene to their body.

This will usually allow a tick to release itself and prevent leaving the head in the wound. Anyone suspected of having Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever should seek medical care for appropriate diagnosis and therapy. Prevention is attained primarily by the avoidance of tick infested areas.

Lyme disease is another tick borne illness, first described in the New York and Connecticut regions. It is carried by a deer tick, though other vectors have now been confirmed. Lyme disease begins with a mild fever, aching muscles and joints, and a “bull’s eye” rash. Red in the center with an outer red ring, this rash begins on the trunk, then spreads and eventually fades.

Blood tests are available to confirm the diagnosis. Long term complications with arthritis, chronic fatigue, and vague internal complaints may result when the acute illness was not treated promptly. I have found fever therapy to be helpful in both acute and chronic cases. The earlier the diagnosis, the better, since response from any therapy is more sure and rapid.

Other illnesses caused by Rickettsial organisms are as follows:

Rickettsialpox is a mild, nonfatal, self-limited illness transmitted from mites to humans. It is characterized by a skin lesion at the site of the mite bite, a oneweek course of high fevers, and a rash resembling chicken pox. Typhus fever or Murine typhus is an acute illness with fever transmitted to humans by fleas.

A headache and skin rash, together with muscle aching also develops, though serious complications are uncommon. The elimination of rodents and appropriate flea control measures in rat infested areas are the best for prevention of this disease.

Epidemic louse-borne typhus fever is caused by another Rickettsial organism. Headache, fever, and a skin rash are sometimes complicated by vascular and neurologic disturbances. Specific therapeutic agents are available.

Scrub typhus, Q fever, and trench fever are other Rickettsial infections, the latter transmitted by the human body louse. Since these are uncommon, you may refer to a standard textbook of infectious diseases for clinical description and specific treatment.

Life cycle of the Pork Tapeworm. The eggs of this parasite, Taenia solium, are first ingested by the hog. The embryo is then released from the egg. When an individual eats pork (especially undercooked) the egg penetrates his intestinal wall, is carried by vascular channels to all parts of the body, then encysts as a larvae (called bladder worms) and lives in the muscles causing pain or weakness.

With brain involvement the patient may even develop seizures, symptoms of meningoencephalitis, and other neurologic disorders. The pig is a scavenger. Do not eat it!