Sydney University Department of Medical Entomology Westmead Hospital
Spotted Fevers

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In Australia, the Spotted Fevers are the main diseases transmitted by ticks to humans. There are two types of Spotted Fever, Queensland Tick Typhus (QTT) and Flinders Island Spotted Fever (FISF), although these diseases are not commonly reported (less than 50 cases of QTT per year in New South Wales). These afflictions are caused by rickettsiae (Rickettsia australis and R. honei, respectively), which are a group of primitive bacteria-like organisms.

The symptoms of tick typhus include rashes, eschars, headaches, fever, flu-like symptoms and lymph node tenderness. The clinical diagnosis is confirmed through the use of specific blood tests. Tick typhus is treatable with antibiotics, although fatalities have occurred rarely.

QTT is distributed along the eastern coastal strip of Australia from northern Queensland through northern New South Wales, at least as far south as Sydney, while FISF occurs in eastern Victoria and Tasmania (particularly in Flinders Island). It appears that the spotted fevers are transmitted to humans by the Paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus, but other species such as I. tasmani are also thought to be involved.

Stephen L. Doggett

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