Avoiding Typhus Post-Collapse

Typhus is also caused by lice, not the head lice type, but the body louse. There is always an emergence of typhus during wars, after natural disasters and when homelessness or lack of sanitation increases. Typhus in camp environments is commonplace.

The reason for this is simple, the lice were there all the time, but our daily shower and the norm of washing out clothes in a washing machine removes them from our environment.

When we are in contact with people who have infestations of body lice but we can’t shower daily and put our clothes through the wash the louse breeds and infestation occurs.

Like the head lice it is not the louse itself that causes problems, it’s our reaction to it. The louse defecates as it feeds, the bite itches and we scratch, This deposits the faeces in the wound and typhus gets into the system.

It presents as a flu like illness and a feeling of general malaise which will increase in severity as the constant itch-scratch cycle puts more bacteria into the bloodstream.

Typhus has two forms, epidemic typhus and Murine typhus and both can kill. Outbreaks of typhus have killed millions of people through the ages.

Assuming access to typhus vaccine is not available then prevention has to be the order of the day.

Keep a couple of sets of clothes for when you venture out and mix with other people…if you venture out and mix with other people.

These clothes should be removed on arrival at your home. Put them into a plastic bag and seal with tape or a cable tie. Then put them into another bag or a bucket with a lid and leave them there for at least 14 days.

The lice need to feed every five days or they die the extra time is to cover any eggs that hatch.

After taking off your clothes shower if you can or at a minimum sponge bath from head to toe. You can use a damp rag, baby wipes, whatever. The point is to make sure that there are no lice on your body. If you do find one, crush it before it gets onto someone else.

The clothes in the bag should be given a good shake before you wear them again and if possible be left in sunlight as the UV rays kill a variety of other bacteria.

If you do think you or a member of your group is infected by typhus antibiotics if you have them should be given.

Anything is better than nothing but penicillin based drugs are far less effective than they used to be due to resistance. Tetracycline or Doxycycline would be the treatment of choice.


You need to be fastidious if you are mixing with those who have rare access to laundry and sanitation facilities. If you take someone into the group they should strip outside of the property and wash with whatever they can before coming into the house. I know this sounds harsh but its essential that any lice are removed before they join the group. The lice will move from person to person very easily and this is to be avoided at all costs particularly as the antibiotics that treat it cannot be stored long term.


Lizzie Bennett
Medically Speaking

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