Rickettsialpox is a disease spread by a mite. It causes a chickenpox-like rash on the body.
Rickettsialpox is caused by the bacteria, Rickettsia akari. It is commonly found in the United States in New York City and other city areas. It also has been seen in Europe, South Africa, Korea, and Russia.
The bacteria are spread by the bite of a mite that lives on mice.
The disease begins at the site of the mite bite as a painless, firm, red lump (nodule). The nodule develops into a fluid-filled blister that bursts and crusts over. This lump may be up to 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) wide. Symptoms usually develop 6 to 15 days after coming in contact with the bacteria.
Other symptoms may include:
- Discomfort in bright light (photophobia)
- Fever and chills
- Muscle pain
- Rash that looks like chickenpox
The rash is not painful and usually clears within a week.
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will do an examination to look for a rash similar to the one in chickenpox.
If rickettsialpox is suspected, these tests will likely be done:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Tests of blood serum (serologic studies)
- Swabbing and culture of the rash
The goal of treatment is to cure the infection by taking antibiotics.
A full recovery is expected when antibiotics are taken as instructed.
There are usually no complications if the infection is treated.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you or your child has symptoms of rickettsialpox.
Controlling mice helps prevent the spread of rickettsialpox.
Paddock CD. Rickettsialpox. In: Magill AJ, Hill DR, Solomon T, Ryan ET, eds. Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 65.
Raoult D. Rickettsia akari (Rickettsialpox). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 189.
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.