February 20th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) Rickettsial diseases are caused by a group of bacteria that are transmitted by fleas, lice, mites, and ticks, and can have a high rate of mortality if not treated promptly. The problem with these diseases is that they are easily confused with other diseases, and the public has little or no information about them. As a result, the Latin American Congress of Rickettsial Diseases seeks to increase awareness of these conditions in the country and the region, and to better understand their ecology and manage their impact on health.
Troyo Adriana Rodriguez, a researcher at the Centre for Research in Tropical Diseases, University of Costa Rica (UCR-CIET), said rickettsial diseases are caused by a group of bacteria known as Rickettsia, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma, which cause high fever, rash, and a feeling of illness (malaise). Some even affect dogs. Two of the diseases are also known as Spotted and Typhus Fever.
“These diseases can be fatal in humans (especially the type of bacteria called Rickettsia), as it can have a very high mortality rate if not treated with a specific antibiotic. Here in the country, the last fatal case reported was in 2010, involving a minor and after that in the last two years there have been diagnosed by chance at least three or four confirmed cases, but the problem is there [aren’t many doctors looking for it]” the doctor said.
The doctor said he believes there is significant underreporting of cases in the country, but as the diseases are not on the top of most physicians’ minds, it is difficult to know the actual situation.
The doctor said that in some cases, patients who have the disease simply end up receiving broad-spectrum treatment “against everything,” and although they get better, both doctors and patient never end up knowing the true source of the patient’s illness. As a result, he said, he believes there is a large problem with underreporting through the region.
Troyo also mentioned that specific laboratory tests must be used to detect the bacteria, which are not yet standardized by the country’s health system.
Troyo said it is important for a doctor to know if a patient has been in contact with animals, as it can serve as a clue to the doctor that the patient may be suffering from a Rickettsial disease.
The group plans a public conference on July 22 and 24th, where international experts from Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, France, the United States, and Costa Rica will be in attendance. More information is available on their website (Spanish).