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Masqueraders Around Disaster: Clinical Features of Scrub Typhus in Fukushima, Japan.

BACKGROUND: Scrub typhus (ST) is endemic in Fukushima, with the largest number of cases reported in Japan from 2009 to 2010. Although ST is highly treatable, its atypical clinical presentation impedes diagnosis, causing delays in treatment.

METHODS: We review the clinical features of ST in adults from 2008 to 2017 at Ohta Nishinouchi General Hospital in Fukushima, Japan.

RESULTS: Fifty-five cases (serotype Karp 24, Irie/Kawasaki 21, Hirano/Kuroki 10) of ST were confirmed via serology based on elevated immunoglobulin (Ig)M and IgG and polymerase chain reaction positivity of eschar samples. The mean age was 69 years, and 64% were female. The case fatality rate was 1.8% (1/55). Approximately 70% of cases (38/55) were not diagnosed as ST upon the initial clinic visit. Inappropriate use of antibiotics was identified in 22% of cases (12/55). In terms of atypical clinical features, 1 or more of the manifestations, fever, rash, and eschar, was absent in 31% of cases (17/55). Approximately 11% of cases presented without eschar (6/55; Karp 1, Irie/Kawasaki 1, Hirano/Kuroki 4). Moreover, severe complications were observed with shock and disseminated intravascular coagulation in 7% of cases (4/55), Thus, while 53% of cases presented with the typical triad (29/55), unusual complications and atypical features occurred in 40% (22/55).

CONCLUSIONS: Diagnosis of ST becomes clinically challenging in the absence of typical features. In Fukushima, an endemic area of ST, an atypical presentation involving multisystem disease is common.

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