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For Immediate Release:
February 07, 2019
For more information contact:
Public Health Communications
(213) 240-8144

Update on Flea-Borne Typhus in Los Angeles County

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) continues to investigate the occurrence of flea-borne typhus throughout Los Angeles County. An increase in flea-borne typhus cases in recent years highlights the need for everyone to take steps to reduce their risk of infection.

“Flea-borne typhus is regularly found each year throughout Los Angeles County, and cases can cluster over periods of time in areas where environmental factors support wild animals that can harbor infected fleas,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Health Officer. “I appreciate how cities have expanded trash clean-up and rodent control activities, and I continue to encourage all cities in Los Angeles County to continue those actions. I recommend that pet owners practice safe flea control as well.”

Typhus is not transmitted person-to-person. Flea-borne typhus can spread to people from infected fleas and their feces. Typhus infection can be prevented through flea control measures on pets, using insect repellent to avoid flea bites, and clearing areas that can attract wild or stray animals like cats, rats and opossums. Symptoms of typhus include high fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and rash in people. Call your doctor if you have symptoms; typhus can be treated with antibiotics. People with prolonged outdoor exposure in close proximity to wildlife, including individuals experiencing homelessness are at risk of acquiring flea-borne typhus.

From 2013-2017, the average number of reported cases has doubled to nearly 60 cases per year. From 2018-to-date, there are a total of 107 cases of flea-borne typhus documented by Public Health (excluding Long Beach and Pasadena as cases identified in those cities are reported by their local health departments). Public Health continues to interview those affected, to conduct surveillance activities related to those cases, and to work with other County departments and incorporated cities to reduce the environmental risk for typhus infections.

In October 2018, Public Health announced flea-borne typhus outbreak clusters in the downtown Los Angeles and Willowbrook areas. To date, there have been a total of 19 cases in downtown Los Angeles (eight out of 19 in people experiencing homelessness) and seven cases in Willowbrook. While clusters of cases have occurred in downtown Los Angeles and Willowbrook, there are no areas designated as "typhus zones" as all areas of Los Angeles County are at risk.

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 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 http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/typhus or call 2- 1-1.

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of over 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health comprises nearly 4,100 employees and has an annual budget of $1 billion. To learn more about Los Angeles County Public Health, please visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, and follow LA County Public Health on social media at twitter.com/lapublichealth, facebook.com/lapublichealth and youtube.com/lapublichealth.