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Rickettsialpox

Definition

Rickettsialpox is an infection that is passed to humans by the bite of a house mouse mite.

What is going on in the body?

Rickettsia akari is the organism that causes rickettsialpox. The natural host is the house mouse. Humans are accidental hosts who become infected when bitten by an infected mouse mite.
The disease was first recognized in New York City. Now rare in the US, it still occurs in the Mediterranean, Russia, Korea, and South Africa. The incubation time, from mite bite to first symptoms, is 7 to 14 days. The disease is self-limited, which means it usually goes away on its own.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

Rickettsialpox is caused by the organism R. akari. It is more likely to be passed to humans in crowded and mouse-infested housing conditions.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the disease?

The best way to prevent rickettsialpox is to control mice and their mites.

Diagnosed

How is the disease diagnosed?

The organism can be found in the blood during the early stages of illness. More often the diagnosis is made when antibodies to the organism are detected in the blood.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the disease?

There are no long term effects from rickettsialpox.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Rickettsialpox is not contagious. But a person living in the same mouse-infested housing is at greater risk of getting the infection.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the disease?

Antibiotics such as tetracycline, doxycycline, and chloramphenicol can be used to treat rickettsialpox.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Antibiotics may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, or an allergic reaction.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the disease?

Even without treatment, rickettsialpox is fairly mild and self-limiting. Treatment does make the symptoms go away faster.

Monitor

How is the disease monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

Sources

Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, Tierney, 2000

The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997

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