What are the signs and symptoms of louse-borne relapsing fever in pediculosis and pthiriasis (lice infestation)?

Updated: Aug 16, 2019
  • Author: Lyn C C Guenther, MD, FRCPC, FAAD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

The spirochete B recurrentis causes relapsing fever. This disease is highly fatal in malnourished persons. Although not common in North America, epidemics have been described during the last few decades in Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe.

Human infection with this spirochete occurs only when a crushed louse comes into contact with an abrasion or if it is ingested. The bacteria replicate in the louse hemolymph, not in the gut; therefore, no transmission occurs through the salivary glands or via the feces. The bacterial infection causes a high fever, headache, dizziness, and myalgia. Rash and sweating also appear and wane approximately on day 5. As the name indicates, this fever often returns several times.


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