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:
- hygiene is poor
- there are overcrowded living conditions
- there are lots of bushes and grassland
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:
- a high temperature
- a rash, which may be harder to see on black or brown skin
- feeling sick or being sick
- feeling generally unwell
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