Typhus is an infection spread by lice, fleas or mites. It's very rare in the UK. It can be serious, but most people make a full recovery if treated quickly.

How you get typhus

You can catch typhus if you're bitten by infected lice, mites or fleas. These are often found on small animals like mice, rats, cats, dogs, and squirrels.

People can also carry them on their clothes, skin or hair.

Typhus is mainly found in parts of Africa, South America and Asia, especially in places where:

How to lower your risk of getting typhus when travelling

There's no vaccine to prevent typhus, but you can reduce the risk of getting infected.


  • use insect repellent that contains DEET

  • wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers

  • wash and shower regularly

  • wash and change your clothes regularly


  • do not wear clothing or use bedding that might be infected with body lice

Symptoms of typhus

Symptoms of typhus include:

Non-urgent advice: Get medical advice if:

You have symptoms of typhus and:

  • you've recently returned from abroad
  • you're travelling abroad

If you're in England, see a GP, call 111 or get help from 111 online.

If you're abroad, check your travel insurance for how to get medical help while you're away, or check the health advice for the country you're visiting on GOV.UK.

It's important to get diagnosed early so treatment can be started as soon as possible. If typhus is not treated quickly, it can sometimes be life-threatening.

Treatment for typhus

If a doctor thinks you could have typhus, they'll usually suggest a blood test or skin biopsy.

Antibiotics are used to treat a typhus infection. They're usually started before you get your test result, as this can take up to a week.

Most people start to feel better within 48 hours of starting treatment. It's important to keep taking your antibiotics until they're finished, even if you feel better.

People with severe typhus may need to be treated in hospital.

Page last reviewed: 25 July 2023
Next review due: 25 July 2026