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Relapsing Fever

Overview :

Relapsing fever is caused by spiral-shaped bacteria of the genus Borrelia. This bacterium lives in rodents and in insects, specifically ticks and body lice. The form of relapsing fever acquired from ticks is slightly different from that acquired from body lice.

In tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF), rodents (rats, mice, chipmunks, and squirrels) which carry Borrelia are fed upon by ticks. The ticks then acquire the bacteria, and are able to pass it on to humans. TBRF is most common in sub-Saharan Africa, parts of the Mediterranean, areas in the Middle East, India, China, and the south of Russia. Also, Borrelia causing TBRF exist in the western regions of the United States, particularly in mountainous areas. The disease is said to be endemic to these areas, meaning that the causative agents occur naturally and consistently within these locations.

In louse-borne relapsing fever (LBRF), lice acquire Borrelia from humans who are already infected. These lice can then go on to infect other humans. LBRF is said to be epidemic, as opposed to endemic, meaning that it can occur suddenly in large numbers in specific communities of people. LBRF occurs in places where poverty and overcrowding predispose to human infestation with lice. LBRF has flared during wars, when conditions are crowded and good hygiene is next to impossible. At this time, LBRF is found in areas of east and central Africa, China, and in the Andes Mountains of Peru.

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