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Relapsing Fever

more about Relapsing Fever


Tick fever or Epidemic Relapsing Fever


  • An infection transmitted to humans when bitten by a tick (endemic relapsing fever) or body lice (Epidemic Relapsing Fever).

  • Symptoms appear suddenly, last for a week, subside, and then 2-4 days later less severe symptoms appear.  These cycles recur 2-4 more times.
  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Rigors or shaking chills
  • Jaundice or yellowish tinge to the skin or whites of the eyes is due to liver involvement.
  • Chest pain
  • Nosebleeds
  • Vomiting blood
  • Blood in the Urine
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint aches
  • Rash -- pink-red, flat, or as tiny areas of bleeding under the skin

  • Squirrels and other rodents carry the tick (Ornithododus) that contains Spirochete (corkscrew shaped) bacteria from the Borrelia family.
  • When we humans walk in the wooded areas, hungry ticks (sensing the carbon dioxide released from our breath) bite us and feed on our blood for 10-90 minutes (usually at night), during which they transmit the Borrelia bacteria.
    The bites -- prevalent in warm weather or winter in heated cabins -- often go unnoticed.

  • History of symptoms, illnesses, travels, camping, allergies, family history, habits
  • Medical exam will reveal signs and symptoms (see above).
  • Tests:

- Wright staining or Giemsa technique -- applies a dye to a drop of blood collected from the infected patient -- will show a large number of Spirochete bacteria.


  • Endemic form of the disease occurs in western U.S. and Canada
  • Areas of poor sanitation -- famine, poverty, and war -- spread the epidemic form of the disease via body lice in crowded conditions.
  • Epidemic form currently in China, Peru, and Western Africa.
  • Males and younger adults who camp more than women and the aged.

  • Treatment with Tetracycline or erythromycin is the preferred antibiotic choice.
  • Warning -- in some cases of tetracycline therapy, severe Shock and death can occur 2 hours after administering the medicine (known as the Jarisch-Herxheimer's reaction, it results from rapid destruction of the Spirochetes).

  • Contact your physician as soon as possible.  If you find a tick or lice attached to your skin, allow a health professional to remove it for you.

  • Infections:

    1. Bacteria -- Lyme Disease, Meningococcus infection
    2. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever RMSF)
    3. Rickettsial Pox
    4. Virus -- Measles, Rubella




more about Relapsing Fever


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