An infectious diseases specialist is calling on doctors to be aware of the signs of a rare illness he recently diagnosed four times among homeless people in Winnipeg, even though it commonly afflicted soldiers during the First World War.
Doctor Carl Boodman says trench fever is also known to infect people in crowded refugee camps, but he treated four patients within a couple of months, and they had all lived in shelters.
Boodman says the disease is transmitted through the feces of body lice, which can be left on clothing and trigger an itchy reaction causing people to scratch their skin to the point that they end up with abrasions.
That is one of the telltale signs of the misunderstood infectious disease, which could also cause fever, shin pain and a potentially fatal heart infection called endocarditis.
Boodman is the lead author of an article about trench fever in today’s edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and says the condition is detected only through specific lab tests.
He says trench fever is known to have occurred four times in Canada since the mid-1990s but is likely being missed, especially among homeless people who need better access to clean clothing, showers and permanent housing.