Scrub typhus: A common rickettsial disease emerging in a new geographical region of north India
10 March 2014
03 June 2014
28 July 2015 (online)
Scrub typhus is a commonly encountered rickettsial disease of the Indian subcontinent. In India, scrub typhus is being now reported from several areas where it was previously unknown. We report clinical profile and complications of an outbreak of scrub typhus in children from the north Indian state of Uttarakhand, a region not previously known to have endemic disease. We describe the results of a prospective observational study of children with scrub typhus, at a tertiary hospital during the year 2013. The diagnosis was confirmed serologically by an IgM ELISA test. Sixty-two children were diagnosed with scrub typhus. All presented with fever. Other common symptoms were vomiting (59%), facial swelling (53%), cough (24%), abdominal pain (35%), breathlessness (26%) and decreased urine output (21%). High grade fever (> 101°F) was recorded in 95% of the children. Other common signs observed in cases of scrub typhus were hepatomegaly (77%), splenomegaly (63%), edema (37%), tender lymphadenopathy (42%) and hypotension (35%). An eschar was observed in 23% of patients. Meningoencephalitis (30.6%), severe thrombocytopenia (27.4%), shock (17.7%), hepatitis (16.1%) and acute kidney injury (11.3%) were the most commonly encountered complications. Eighty-seven percent of children became afebrile within 48 hours of initiating an appropriate antibiotic. Median time to defervescence was 24 hours. The overall mortality rate was 6.4%. Pediatricians should keep a high index of suspicion for scrub typhus in any febrile child having a maculopapular rash, hepatosplenomegaly, lymphadenopathy, thrombocytopenia and features suggestive of capillary leak. Pending serological confirmation, early empirical therapy with doxycycline or azithromycin should be started, as delay in treatment would result in life threatening complications.