In a follow-up on the increases of flea-borne typhus in Los Angeles and Pasadena, The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services reports cases of flea-borne typhus in 2018 are already double that of past years, with 12 cases reported so far and several others under investigation.
Health officials encourage residents to take steps to protect themselves and their families from flea-borne typhus. This includes making sure your cats and dogs are free of fleas. Additional steps include:
- Do not leave pet food outdoors
- Avoid debris and overgrown vegetation that may harbor wild animals
- Do not provide food or water for wild animals, including feral cats
- Store trash in cans with secure lids
- Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent labeled for use against fleas when outdoors
Flea-borne typhus (also called murine typhus) is caused by the bacteria (Rickettsia typhi) and is transmitted by infected fleas, which enter the skin through scratching following a bite or an any cuts or scrapes. Infected fleas can be carried by rats, domestic or feral cats, dogs, raccoons and opossums.
Flea-borne typhus may be a mild, self-limited illness, or can present as severe disease requiring hospitalization. Symptoms occur 7 to 14 days after exposure, and typically include abrupt onset of fever, headache, chills, myalgia, abdominal pain, or vomiting. A maculopapular rash may appear after 1 week but may also be absent altogether. Severe cases may result in renal, respiratory, ophthalmologic, cardiac, or neurologic dysfunction.
Person-to-person transmission does not occur. Humans are a dead-end host for flea-borne typhus.
Flea-borne typhus is readily treated with antibiotics. Doxycycline is the treatment of choice.
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