Rickettsioses in Denmark: A retrospective survey of clinical features and travel history

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  • Lukas Frans Ocias
  • Bo Bødker Jensen
  • Steen Villumsen
  • Lebech, Anne-Mette
  • Sigurdur Skarphedinsson
  • Ram Benny Dessau
  • Karen Angeliki Krogfelt

Rickettsia spp. can be found across the globe and cause disease of varying clinical severity, ranging from life-threatening infections with widespread vasculitis to milder, more localized presentations. Vector and, to some degree, reservoir are hematophagous arthropods, with most species harboured by ticks. In Denmark, rickettsiae are known as a cause of imported travel-related infections, but are also found endemically in ticks across the country. Data are, however, lacking on the geographical origin and clinical features of diagnosed cases. In this study, we have examined the travel history and clinical features of two groups of patients; 1) hospital-patients diagnosed with rickettsioses in the years 2010-2015 and 2) patients from primary health care (PHC) centers in Denmark having demonstrated anti-rickettsia antibodies in the years 2012-2015. The patients were identified using the Danish National Patient Registry (DNPR) and through the serological database at the State Serum Institute, where the laboratory diagnosis of rickettsioses is currently centralized. Data were collected for 86 hospital patients and 26 PHC center patients by reviewing hospital medical records and performing telephone interviews with PHC centers. Of the hospital patients, 91% (78/86) had a history of international travel 14 days prior to symptom start, with most having imported their infection from southern Africa, South Africa in particular (65%), and presenting with a clinical picture most compatible with African tick-bite fever caused by R. africae. Only two patients presented with a CRP > 100 mg/L and no mortalities were reported. At the PHC centers, most patients presented with mild flu-like symptoms and had an unknown (50%) or no history (19%) of international travel, raising the possibility of endemic rickettsioses. In view of our findings, rickettsioses do not appear to constitute a major public health problem in Denmark, with most cases being imported infections and potential endemic cases presenting as mild infections.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)573-579
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Africa, Southern/epidemiology, Animals, Antibodies, Bacterial/blood, Communicable Diseases, Imported/epidemiology, Denmark/epidemiology, Female, Hospitalization, Humans, Male, Registries, Retrospective Studies, Rickettsia/genetics, Rickettsia Infections/diagnosis, South Africa/epidemiology, Surveys and Questionnaires, Tick-Borne Diseases, Ticks/microbiology, Travel

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