Typhus Outbreak in LA Declared a ‘Crisis’

LA has not designated typhus zones as all areas of Los Angeles County are at risk

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The Los Angeles City Council stressed the importance of protecting LA residents, city employees and visitors from the ongoing flea-borne, Typhus outbreak, reported KTLA.  

During this meeting on February 8th, LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino called the Typhus outbreak a “crisis,” saying it is rooted in the city's inability to clean the streets.

“Rats are emblematic of how we lost control over the trash and encampment issue,” said Buscaino. 

Typhus fevers are bacterial diseases that infected fleas, lice, and chiggers can spread to humans and is not related to Typhoid Fever, which is a foodborne illness. 

Typhus fevers include scrub typhus, murine typhus, and epidemic typhus.

Chiggers spread scrub typhus, fleas spread murine typhus, and body lice spread epidemic typhus. 

The most common Typhus symptoms are fever, headaches, and sometimes rash. 

On February 7, 2019, the LA County Health Department said in a press release, ‘there are no areas designated as "typhus zones" as all areas of Los Angeles County are at risk.’ 

Recommended:

“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 infected fleas,” said Muntu Davis, MD, 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.” 

The 3 health departments in greater LA issue separate Typhus updates, such as: 

  • LA County: 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. Public Health continues to work with other County departments and incorporated cities, to reduce the environmental risk for Typhus infections.   
  • Long Beach: Department of Health and Human Services reported 20 cases of typhus in 2018, which tied with the highest year on record in 2016. The Health Department continues to provide education to residents, health care providers, and veterinarians, who all play an important part in stopping the spread of the disease in Long Beach.
  • Pasadena: Public Health Department (PPHD) is reporting epidemic levels of typhus fever in 2018, when 20 Pasadena residents were confirmed, which is well above the less than 5 cases per year. 

During 2018, 142 Typhus cases were confirmed in LA. 

In the United States, most typhus cases occur in Texas, California, and Hawaii, with an average of about 300 cases every year, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

And, antibiotics such as tetracycline, doxycycline, azithromycin, and rifampicin are effective treatment options for scrub typhus and have resulted in few treatment failures, says the Cochrane Library.