Louseborne epidemic typhus

Epidemic typhus may by some people have been considered a disease of the past. Yet, it is a constant threat during each major war. During the Second World War, an outbreak of epidemic typhus caused disease in more than 20 million people in Russia. Thereafter, the largest outbreak occurred some years ago in the over-crowded prisons in Burundi (Raoult et al. 1997). Rickettsia prowazekii can persist in a latent form in people who have long ago had overt epidemic typhus. In people under immunological stress the latent form can become apparent as Brill-Zinsser disease. Recently, there have been outbreaks every year of Brill-Zinsser disease in all regions of the former Soviet Union (Rydkina et al. 1999).

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