Flea-borne typhus outbreak in Pasadena

Desiree Burns
October 8, 2018

In 2018, 20 Pasadena residents have been confirmed to have typhus fever, well above the expected one to five cases per year.

Multiple cases of typhus have popped up in downtown Los Angeles and prompted health officials to warn about the flea-spread disease, which can cause organ damage in severe cases. Pets and other animals don't get sick, but for people the symptoms include rash, high fever, chills and headache.

Areas where trash accumulates can draw stray animals and rodents with fleas, increasing the chances of exposure, health officials added.

Typhus is a disease caused by bacteria found in infected fleas that can come from many kinds of animals including cats, rats and opossums. The disease can be treated with antibiotics, according to health officials, and it is not transmitted person-to-person. The illness reaches humans when fleas bite them or when infected flea feces are rubbed into cuts or scrapes in the skin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

- When outside, wear trousers tucked into socks or boots. They also recommend that people "wear trousers tucked into socks or boots when outside" and "spray insect repellent with DEET on socks and pant cuffs".

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Never feed or touch wild animals, especially opossums, rats and stray or feral cats.

Nine cases were reported from July to September, with officials eyeing trash and stray animals as potential catalysts.

Typhus, by contrast, can not be passed between people. Wash your hands when you're finished.

Public health authorities are investigating an outbreak of flea-borne typhus in downtown Los Angeles. For rodent complaints in the City of Los Angeles, call 3-1-1.

For more information regarding flea-borne typhus, visit: http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/VectorTyphus.htm or call 2-1-1.

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