Trench Fever Disease Detected Among Homeless People in Canada

A homeless person in Montreal, Canada (AP)

A disease that afflicted soldiers mired in trench warfare during World War I has been detected among some homeless people in Canada, according to reports.

A study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that trench fever — a potentially fatal bacterial disease transmitted by body lice — was present in some of the country’s urban, homeless populations, CTV News reported.

The illness, which is caused by the bacteria Bartonella quintana, killed millions of troops during World War I from 1914 to 1918, when it was first described. Its symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headaches, rashes and pain in the shins.

“Our public health message is that this disease is present in Canada and that people and physicians aren’t always aware,” University of Manitoba infectious disease expert Dr. Carl Boodman said in a press release.

“It’s associated with homelessness and homeless shelters, and physicians should consider B. quintana infection in people who are unwell and have a history of body lice infestation,” Boodman added.

Trench fever can lead to a potentially fatal heart infection known as endocarditis, according to the news outlet, which added that molecular testing and consultation with infectious disease experts is often needed for diagnosis.

According to the study, a 48-year-old man visited a hospital in Manitoba with chest pain and shortness of breath had also sought care multiple times in the past 18 months for “episodes of chest pain and body lice infestation.”

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SOURCE: New York Post, Yaron Steinbuch