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SEOUL — Though reported scrub typhus infections in South Korea have more than tripled in recent years, U.S. military medical officials say troops appear to be avoiding associated problems.

The disease, transmitted through chiggers (Harvest Mites in their larvae stage) is characterized by fever, bloodshot eyes, headaches, muscle pain and rashes.

Dr. Terry Klein, the 18th Medical Command’s emerging infectious disease consultant, said troops should be aware of the issue and take preventative measures to avoid infection.

Surveys of rodents in U.S. military training areas show a 50 percent infection rate.

“It’s in the area and it’s at the training sites,” Klein said.

He said servicemembers in the field should treat their uniforms with Permethrin, an insecticide that kills mites. They should also tuck their pants into their boots to keep insects out.

He said even if a soldier were infected, medical personnel probably wouldn’t know until after it was treated.

He said the Elisa test, which determines the presence of antibodies, takes between two and four weeks to show positive results for scrub typhus.

In the meantime, Klein said, soldiers would have already taken antibiotics for their symptoms.

“A lot of times doctors treat presumptively using … broad-based antibiotics,” he said.

According to a Chosun Ilbo news report, the number of reported scrub typhus cases in South Korea increased from 1,919 in 2002 to 6,420 in 2006.


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