Clinical Features and Epidemiology of Tick Typhus in Travelers

Tomas Jelinek, Thomas Löscher
DOI: 57-59 First published online: 1 March 2001


Background Epidemiologic features of tick typhus among German travelers has not been surveyed recently.

Methods Clinical features, travel and medical histories in 78 patients with tick typhus who presented to a German outpatient clinic for Infectious and Tropical Diseases were investigated, in order to identify common epidemiological factors and potential strategies of prevention. Diagnosis was confirmed by serological detection of IgG‐ and IgM‐antibodies to Rickettsia conorii by indirect immunofluorescence.

Results The majority of patients (71.8%) had visited southern Africa prior to presentation. All patients presented with fever as the main symptom. An eschar was still present in 68 patients (87.2%) with regional lymphadenitis in 19.2%. However, only a minority of patients (17.9%) remembered a tick bite at the location of the eschar.

Conclusion Efforts to reduce the incidence of tick typhus in travelers should focus on preventive measures targeting behavioral changes. Avoiding tick bites during travel to endemic areas appears to be the single most important prophylactic action. Taking this into consideration, it should be possible to decrease the number of travelers returning with tick typhus significantly by adequate pretravel counseling.