Epidemic Hazard – Asia – India

EDIS Number: EH-20120406-34788-IND
Date / time: 06/04/2012 11:59:38 [UTC]
Event: Epidemic Hazard
Area: Asia
Country: India
State/County: State of Kerala
Location: Trivandrum
Number of Deads: N/A
Number of Injured: N/A
Number of Infected: N/A
Number of Missing: N/A
Number of Affected: N/A
Number of Evacuated: N/A
Damage level: N/A


Death of a five year old child from the coastal area of Poonthura has triggered panic over the possibility of scrub typhus. Health officials however declined to confirm saying that it was difficult to diagnose, although they too suspect this fever. “Scrub typhus is not so common in Trivandrum. We have come across many suspected cases, but nothing has been diagnosed beyond doubt. This type of fever is more common in Calicut, Kannur, Wayanad and Kasargod. The child from Poonthura is only a suspected case but it was not detected completely. There is no need for panic,” said Dr. Pithambaran, District Medical Officer (DMO), Trivandrum. However reliable sources in Trivandrum Medical College said a few cases had tested positive for the fever but were unable to give out the details. “Even though this is a very rare disease, a few cases have been found positive to be scrub typhus over the past four months,” said an official from Medical College. Scrub typhus is a rare disease which can be transmitted from animals to humans. It is one of the most common infectious diseases of rural southern Asia, south eastern Asia, and the western Pacific, caused by the microorganism Rickettsia tsutsugamushi that is typically found in forests. Now, urban scrubs carry it in their salivary glands and inject to human beings. Despite the number of suspected cases, in the city, doctors are unable to explain how it could have migrated from the wild. Experts from Trivandrum Medical College say that almost 12 states in India have reported an increase in the number of the disease in the past six years. Also known as 'tsutsugamushi fever', scrub typhus is curable only if a particular type of antibiotic is used, but it can get out of hand when diagnosis is delayed or routine antibiotics are used.

“If detected early, we can cure it with a simple antibiotic- ‘doxy cycline’ or azithromycin but if not diagnosed, there are chances that the patient may die of circulatory failure or related complications,” added the District Medical Officer. This fever was first identified in Kerala in 2006 in the Malabar areas. “It is difficult to diagnose through clinical symptoms. Doctors usually look for scabs or black scars caused by flea bite. The Weil-Felix test can confirm the infection, but sometimes it might show falsely positive due to urinary tract infection,” said the DMO. Scrub typhus occurs most commonly among people in contact with overgrown terrain, forest clearings, reforested areas, and new settlements in certain areas of Kerala. The disease is seen after rains when mites that live in shrubs are disturbed. “Symptoms usually appear within 10 to 12 days after exposure. It may include a sore on the skin with a “punched out” appearance at the site where the mite attached. Other symptoms may develop after a few days which include fever, headache, sweating, blood-shot eyes, swollen lymph nodes, rash, lung infection, vomiting, and diarrhea,” explained the DMO.

Syndicated from RSOE EDIS - Emergency and Disaster Information