In the first few weeks of October, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (DPH) notified the public about two unusual clusters of flea-borne typhus associated with the Willowbrook and Downtown areas of Los Angeles. In recent years, the average number of cases reported to DPH has doubled to an average 60 cases per year for the last five years. A total of 64 cases of flea-borne typhus across the County have been reported this year.
Flea-borne typhus (also called murine typhus) is a disease that can spread to people from infected fleas and their feces. People get sick with flea-borne typhus when infected flea feces are rubbed into cuts or scrapes in the skin or rubbed into the eyes. Typhus is not spread from person to person.
In Los Angeles County, typhus infects the fleas of rats, cats, dogs and opossums. Infected animals don’t usually show signs that they’re sick.
Preventative measures can be taken around homes and in the community to protect residents and their neighborhoods from typhus.
Keep fleas off you and your pets
Use flea control products on your pets.
Spray yourself with EPA-registered insect repellent to avoid flea bites.
Keep pets indoors.
Use EPA-registered insect repellent labeled for use against fleas.
Avoid being near wild or stray animals
Do not leave pet food outdoors.
Do not provide food or water for wild animals.
Maintain yard free of debris and trim overgrown plants and bushes.
Keep garbage containers tightly covered to avoid attracting animals.
Close up crawl spaces and openings under home where rats and stray animals can sleep, hide, or find food.
Protect yourself by wearing gloves and a mask when cleaning these areas. Wash your hands when you’re finished.
Many people with typhus may have:
Fever and chills
Body aches and muscle pain
Loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting
Rash on the chest, back, arms, or legs
If you have these symptoms, call your doctor. Typhus can be treated with antibiotics. Signs of typhus can start 6 to 14 days after having contact with the infected flea.
For more information, visit the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.