Public Health Department warns of flea-borne typhus outbreak; Barger’s prevention motion approved

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With more than 60 cases of flea-borne typhus reported countywide, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is reminding residents to protect themselves.

“We are continuing to see cases of flea-borne typhus throughout Los Angeles County, so it is important that everyone takes steps to reduce their risk of infection,” Muntu Davis, the L.A. County health officer, said in a statement Friday.

Flea-borne typhus is a disease caused by bacteria and can spread to people through contact with infected fleas, causing symptoms like fever, rash and vomiting when flea feces are rubbed into cuts or scrapes in the skin, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said murine typhus (another name for the disease), is endemic, or the only one of these diseases naturally occurring in L.A. County.

In recent years, the average number of reported cases doubled to nearly 60 cases per year, with 63 total in 2018, according to county officials.

On Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger, who represents the SCV, and Janice Hahn to direct the Public Health Department in coordinating cities to develop a countywide typhus prevention and response plan.

“It is simply inhumane to stand by while people are living in dangerous conditions,” Barger said in a statement. “While efforts to address the typhus outbreak are underway, there is a need for a strategic public health solution to this component of the homelessness crisis.”

The Public Health Department recommends these tips to help prevent typhus:

  • Keep fleas off you and your pets.
  • Use flea control products on your pets.
  • 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 trash in containers that are tightly covered to avoid attracting animals.
  • Close up crawl spaces and openings under the home where rats and stray animals can sleep, hide, or find food.
  • Address any stray cat, rodent or opossum issues on and near your property.

For more information regarding flea-borne typhus, visit the Public Health Department or call 2-1-1.

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