Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Typhus outbreak in California causes public health officials to sound the alarm

Celia Hoffman | 12 October, 2018, 10:07

The typhus outbreak in Southern California has spread to a third city, and pet owners there have been surprised to hear of the uptick in the flea-borne disease.

In an email, the Office of Communications and Public Affairs told Contagion® that there have been 9 cases associated with this outbreak and 57 total cases in 2018.

"Typhus fever is a disease that can cause serious complications requiring lengthy hospitalization, and rarely, death", Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, Pasadena's health officer, said in an announcement on Friday.

More news: Police race BBC news presenters to back-up studio after IT glitch

Typhus is caused by bacteria called Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia prowazekii, which are carried by fleas. Humans are a dead-end host for flea-borne typhus. "We encourage pet owners to practice safe flea control and encourage all cities in the county to ensure maintenance of their trash clean-up and rodent control activities". Symptoms can start within two weeks of contact with the infected flea and can include high fever, chills, headache, body aches and rash. Places where there is an accumulation of trash can attract these animals and increase people's risk of exposure to infected fleas, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement.

You can also protect yourself with DEET insect repellent and by staying away from wild animals. This includes making sure your cats and dogs are free of fleas. Six of the nine downtown cases were contracted by homeless individuals and all nine were hospitalized for treatment, according to officials.

This is an ongoing investigation and the Los Angeles Department of Health will continue to provide updates as they become available.

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