Updated February 9, 2019
The typhus outbreak that gripped Los Angeles in 2018 continues to worsen in 2019. In 2018, 124 people were diagnosed with typhus in Los Angeles County, more than double the previous year’s number. The city of Los Angeles and the city of Long Beach are both already reporting higher than usual numbers of typhus cases for 2019.
In addition to more cases, the demographics of people affected by typhus in L.A. are changing. While the disease was previously relatively contained among the area’s homeless populations, cluster outbreaks among city officials have prompted an all-hands-on-deck situation.
Rodent infestations at City Hall and City Hall East are bringing up questions over whether or not both buildings’ carpets should be replaced entirely. Both buildings are also considering disallowing outside food and drink as well as indoor plants in the future to discourage rodents. Rodents are prime carriers for fleas infected with typhus.
Both dogs and cats can get typhus from infected fleas. It’s critical to ensuring your safety and the safety of your pet that your flea and tick medication is up to date.
October 8, 2018
The Los Angeles Department of Health has officially declared an outbreak of flea-borne typhus in downtown Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Pasadena. Officials say the outbreak has reached “epidemic levels” in some areas as the number of cases reported in all of 2018 have more than doubled in just a few weeks.
What is Typhus?
Endemic typhus, also known as murine typhus, is an infectious disease spread readily by fleas. When infected flea feces makes its way into the human body through cuts or other vulnerable areas like the eyes, contagion can occur. It usually takes about 2 weeks for typhus symptoms to appear and can include:
- Fever and/or chills
- Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
- Muscle aches and/or body pain
- Rash occurring on or around day five of contamination
Most reports of typhus aren’t geographically-based, so outbreaks like the one currently in downtown and neighboring areas are unusual. Typhus is most prevalent during summer and fall and affects California, Hawaii, and Texas far more than other parts of the U.S.
How to Detect and Treat Typhus
If you suspect you might have been infected with typhus, your doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine whether or not the infection is present in your system. Thankfully, typhus is usually relatively simple to treat through a course of antibiotics, although your doctor will want to follow up with you to ensure you don’t have any lasting effects.
It’s important to note that dogs and cats can get typhus, too. They usually have higher levels of immunity than humans and the disease tends to affect older dogs far more than younger ones. Symptoms are similar to those of distemper and include vomiting, diarrhea (with blood), darkening of the white part of the eye, unusually foul mouth odor, chills, or listlessness. Prompt treatment is paramount for pets with typhus so if you suspect yours has been infected, call your vet immediately.
How Can You Avoid Typhus?
Thankfully, this one is relatively easy. The best way to steer clear of typhus is to stay away from fleas. Fleas are one of the main transmitters of the disease (rats and raccoons are also carriers) and they’re everywhere this time of year.
It’s incredibly important to keep your dog or cat’s flea medication up-to-date. This helps keep fleas at bay – and out of your house – during flea season (which unfortunately for Californians is…always.) Flea meds come in several different variations, from topical gels to chewable pills. You might also want to talk to your vet about extra measures for flea prevention like amber flea collars or even supplements.
Do you think your pet might have fleas? Here’s how to get rid of them.