Typhus is a disease that is carried by fleas. It is said to be prevalent only in two areas of the country, the Coastal Bend region and Southern California; and in Nueces County so far this year, there have been 38 confirmed cases.
Dr. Jamie Fergie is an expert in infectious diseases at Driscoll Children's Hospital and said the disease is often misdiagnosed because it often feels like a bad case of the flu.
"This is the time of year when we begin to see more typhus," Fergie said. "It is here. It is in the Coastal Bend. It is in Nueces County and Corpus Christi is a hot bed for typhus."
Fergie said that fleas carry typhus, which is a bacterial disease, and is a real problem in South Texas year round. Rats, mice and opossums carry the fleas, and because of the recent drought, are coming closer to more populated areas and spreading typhus.
However, the disease often mimics the flu, with some major exceptions.
"They have severe headache," Fergie said. "You begin to have a rash."
In one study, Fergie said 20 percent of teens between the ages of 15 and 16 had evidence of typhus. Fergie has studied this disease thoroughly and his research has been published.
Children and the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems are the most at risk. Risk of death is minimal since typhus can be treated with antibiotics, but the only way to find out if you have typhus and not the flu is though a blood test.
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