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Orientia tsutsugamushi, spotted fever group rickettsioses, and typhus group rickettsioses (TGR) are reemerging causes of acute febrile illness (AFI) in Southeast Asia. To further delineate extent, we enrolled patients >4 weeks of age with nonmalarial AFI in Sabah, Malaysia, during 2013-2015. We confirmed rickettsioses (past or acute, IgG titer >160) in 126/354 (36%) patients. We confirmed acute rickettsioses (paired 4-fold IgG titer rise to >160) in 38/145 (26%) patients: 23 O. tsutsugamushi, 9 spotted fever group, 4 TGR, 1 O. tsutsugamushi/spotted fever group, and 1 O. tsutsugamushi/TGR. PCR results were positive in 11/319 (3%) patients. Confirmed rickettsioses were more common in male adults; agricultural/plantation work and recent forest exposure were risk factors. Dizziness and acute hearing loss but not eschars were reported more often with acute rickettsioses. Only 2 patients were treated with doxycycline. Acute rickettsioses are common (>26%), underrecognized, and untreated etiologies of AFI in East Malaysia; empirical doxycycline treatment should be considered.

Original publication




Journal article


Emerging infectious diseases

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