Typhus Fever

Typhus fever was fairly prevalent in the 1890s in Korea, especially among the poor. By the 1940s observers had detected three types of typhus fever in Korea: the epidemic, or louse-borne type (Rickettsia prowazeki); the endemic, or flea-borne type; and the mite-borne type caused by Rickettsia orientalis, known as tsutsugamushi disease or Japanese river fever. The forms of typhus transmitted by mites and lice have the highest fatality rates, but endemic typhus, sometimes called "Honan fever," was the most common form in Korea. Several types of mite existed in Korea, including Trombicula akamushi, the chief vector of R. orientalis. All three varieties of human lice were prevalent in Korea.

Between 1929 and 1937 the annual number of typhus cases reported varied from 890 to 1,683. The fatality rate was estimated as 11 to 13 percent. Tsutsugamushi disease was the least frequently reported. Body lice were also found to carry Rickettsia quintana, which causes trench fever.

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