European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 237–245

Epidemiology of rickettsial diseases

Authors

  • D. H. Walker
    • Department of PathologyThe University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
  • D. B. Fishbein
    • Centers for Disease Control - Rickettsial and Epidemiology Sections, Viral and Rickettsial zoonoses Branch - Division of Viral and Rickettsial Disease - Center for Infections Disease
Article

DOI: 10.1007/BF00145672

Cite this article as:
Walker, D.H. & Fishbein, D.B. Eur J Epidemiol (1991) 7: 237. doi:10.1007/BF00145672

Abstract

Rickettsial diseases have a diversity of epidemiologic characteristics reflective of the variety of ecologic situations in which the obligate intracellular bacteria are transmitted to humans. For the spotted fever group (SFG) rickettsiae, Rickettsia typhi. R. tsutsugamushi, Coxiella burnetii, and the human ehrlichial agent, humans are a dead-end host who plays no role in the maintenance of the organism in nature. All rickettsioses exist as zoonoses. Moreover, all rickettsiae are found in infected arthopods, which generally serve as the natural hosts and can transmit the infection to the next generation of ticks, mites, chiggers, or fleas. From our anthropocentric viewpoint, Q fever aerosol infection from parturient animals and Brill-Zinsser disease ignited epidemics of louse-borne epidemic typhus are exceptions. However, silent cycles of C. burnetii in ticks and R. prowazekii in the flying squirrel flea may have maintained these agents in transovarial or enzootic cycles for eons before humans and their domestic animals arrived on the scene. Thus, the epidemiology of rickettsial diseases must be recognized as an unfortunate aberration of the rickettsial economy.

Several excellent reviews of rickettsial ecology contain a wealth of useful information (2, 8, 55, 70, 84).

Keywords

Human ehrlichiosisRickettsial spotted feversTyphus feversScrub typhusQ feverZoonosis
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Copyright information

© Gustav Fischer 1991