Warning to holidaymakers heading to US over new bug with '70% mortality rate'
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Warning to holidaymakers heading to US over new bug with '70% mortality rate'

Jul 18, 2023

BRITS heading across the pond this summer have been warned of a new disease that kills up to 70 per cent of those it infects.

Bacteria that causes 'scrub typhus' has been detected in parks in North Carolina, US, for the first time, according to a study.

It can be transmitted to humans via chigger bites causing flu-like symptoms, a rash, a dark scab and even confusion.

In serious cases, it can also damage the lungs and heart, leading to organ failure and death.

Chiggers are microscopic mites that live in warm, grassy or wooded areas near water.

Scientists at NC State University and the University of North Carolina Greensboro found the infected insects living in five national parks.

Study author, professor Gideon Wasserberg, said the research "raises the concern for the potential exposure of local residents to this potentially serious disease".

Those visiting the area could also be at risk.

However, no cases of the disease in humans have yet been reported in people in North Carolina.

Professor Richard Wall, from the University of Bristol, told the Sun: "The bug is expected to move to other states as animals carrying the mites migrate.

"It might have been in North Carolina for hundreds of years, the warm climate suits it."

He added: "It might not survive so well in other cooler states, as the mite tends to prefer warmer weather."

Thankfully, the chances of it cropping up in the UK are "extremely low".

"The type of mite which carries scrub typhus is not native to Europe," he added.

Other tick-borne bugs are also on the rise.

Infections of babesiosis have 'significantly increased' in eight North-eastern US states in recent years, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The bug kills one in five of those it infects.

Meanwhile, tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), which can cause meningitis, has been discovered in the bugs in several parts of England.

Before this year, the disease was only found in Europe, Russia, parts of China and Japan.

A rise in global temperatures and has been suggested by scientists as the cause for the spread of disease-carrying critters.

According to the CDC, this is the first time scrub typhus has been found in the US.

Scrub typhus is endemic to an area called the Tsutsugamushi Triangle — named after the bacteria that causes the disease — which stretches from Pakistan to eastern Russia and Australia.

Estimates suggest there are around one million cases a year and 60,000 deaths.

Administration of antibiotic doxycycline when symptoms first emerge keeps death rates low.

However, the bug has recently been detected in the Middle East, southern Chile, and Africa - prompting health officials to search for it in the US.

Scientists from the Centre for Tropical Medicine, Oxford, say up to 70 per cent of patients with the bug who aren't treated soon enough die.

About 10 days after infection, a reddish mark will emerge in the site of the bite.

Soon after this, the sufferer might start experiencing headache, fever, chills, muscle pains.

A week later, a pinkish rash may also appear on the skin around the abdomen that may then extend to the extremities.

Without treatment, the disease can also lead to heart and lung failure, and from that death.