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Typhus is a disease caused by two different species of Rickettsia bacilli and associated with human crowding and poor sanitary conditions. Humans may contract two different types of typhus: Endemic or murine typhus, caused by R. typhi, which is transmitted by the rat flea; and epidemic typhus, caused by R. prowazekii, which is transmitted by the human body louse. Typhus causes very high fever, severe aches, delirium, vomiting, and a characteristic rash. Untreated, epidemic typhus presents a death rate of up to 60 percent; murine typhus is typically milder and less fatal.

Epidemic typhus has long been common in refugee camps, in times of war, in prisons, and after environmental disasters. Then called the “Hungarian disease,” typhus swept through central and western Europe during the Thirty ...

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