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Opossums and the Spread of Rickettsia felis

 

Geographic Association of Rickettsia felis-Infected Opossums with Human Murine Typhus, Texas

Murine typhus is a more common infectious diseases in south Texas. Often the disease is mild and unrecognized; however, it can be severe and even fatal. The severity of murine typhus infection has been associated with old age, delayed diagnosis, hepatic and renal dysfunction, central nervous system abnormalities, and pulmonary compromise. Up to 4% of hospitalized patients die (13). Murine typhus, which is endemic in many coastal areas and ports throughout the world, is one of the most widely distributed arthropodborne infections. Sporadic outbreaks of murine typhus have been reported in Australia and more recently in China, Greece, Israel, Kuwait, and Thailand (46).

Recent serosurveys have demonstrated a high prevalence of antibodies to typhus group Rickettsiae in humans living in Asia and southern Europe. In the United States, thousands of human cases were reported annually in the 1940s (1,2). A major public health measure consisting of a combination of environmental modification, rat, and vector-control programs greatly reduced human cases in the United States to <100 reported cases of murine typhus/year. As a result, most states no longer report murine typhus. However, murine typhus has been a reportable disease in Texas for the past 40 years.

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