LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is investigating an outbreak involving several cases of flea-borne typhus in downtown Los Angeles and is working with the city of Los Angeles to implement environmental safety measures to reduce the spread of the disease.
Flea-borne typhus is a disease that infected fleas can spread to humans. Bacteria (Rickettsia typhi and R. felis) found in infected fleas, and their feces, cause typhus. Fleas can come from many types of animals including cats, rats, and opossums. Although pets and animals do not get sick from typhus, typhus can cause high fever, chills, headache, and rash in people and can be treated with antibiotics. Places where there is an accumulation of trash that attract wild animals like feral cats, rats and opossums that may carry an infected flea may increase the risk of exposure. Typhus is not transmitted person-by-person.
“Although typhus normally occurs throughout LA County, we are observing several cases in the downtown Los Angeles area,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Health Officer. “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.”