Rickettsia are a group of bacteria that ticks, fleas, mice, and lice can carry and that cause rickettsiosis. These bacteria can only live inside of other cells, and usually exist in the skin cells of affected people. They are transmitted by the bite of a carrier or by coming into contact with a crushed arthropod or its waste. Anyone who lives in or travels to areas with infected arthropods is at risk for rickettsiosis, and there is a higher risk of outbreaks among those living in crowded conditions. The risk of infection is higher in the summer, because this is when the carriers are most active. The type of rickettsial infection a person gets will depend on the species that infects that person, and is largely dependent on geographical location.
In general, symptoms of rickettsiosis will appear 5 to 14 days after the initial infection. Symptoms include headache, fever, rash, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. The rash seen in rickettsiosis can vary in appearance, and usually appears as small red dots that may be found on the hands and feet. Another potential outwardly visible symptom is a dark sore at the site of a carrier’s bite.
Diagnosis of a rickettsial infection can usually be made with a physical examination and subsequent blood tests. Rickettsiosis is treatable with medications such as antibiotics. If you have been diagnosed with rickettsiosis, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. In addition, it is important to talk to your doctor about preventative measures that can be taken to avoid rickettsial infection while traveling.