The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) yesterday cautioned the public about scrub typhus, a mite-borne infectious disease caused by the bacterium Orientia tsutsugamushi, saying the disease-transmitting mites (chiggers) are particularly active in mountainous areas with heavy scrub vegetation and that people should be wary of venturing into such areas during the upcoming Tomb Sweeping Festival.
As of Monday, the nation has recorded 42 confirmed cases this year, the CDC said.
CDC official Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) added that statistics compiled by the agency showed that the 460 confirmed cases of scrub typhus last year were mainly found on Lienchiang, Kinmen and Penghu, and in Hualien and Taitung.
The data also showed that the number of cases of confirmed scrub typhus infection usually starts to rise between April and May and peaks in July, the CDC said.
Physician Luo I-chun (羅一鈞), who works at the CDC, reported that scrub typhus has an incubation period of nine to 12 days, “so those who got bitten and infected might not be correctly diagnosed on their first visit to the doctor, when the symptoms of fever and headache can easily be misdiagnosed as mere colds.”
“An eschar, a black, dry scab forming on the skin, is a typical sign of the infection that develops at the site of the bite, but only about one-third of those with the infection develop eschars,” Luo said. “Rashes would occur on the body after a week of fever and later on the limbs.”
The CDC advised the public to avoid bushes, apply insect repellent to exposed skin and wear light-colored and long-sleeved clothing if they venture into overgrown areas.