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Flea-borne Typhus

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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Long Beach Health Department and the Pasadena Health Department confirmed a record number of typhus cases in 2018. 

Jump on Typhus Before it Jumps on You!

If wildlife or pets with no flea control come in close contact with people, the chances of getting sick from a flea bite is higher.

Flea-borne typhus is considered endemic (always present) in areas of Los Angeles and Orange counties, but cases are also occasionally reported from other parts of California. 

How do you get flea-borne typhus?

A person can become infected with typhus bacteria by the bite of an infectious flea. The bacteria can also be found in the feces of some fleas which can contaminate the skin surface while the flea is feeding. If the person scratches the flea bite area, some of the bacteria in the flea feces can enter the person’s blood stream.

How can you prevent getting flea-borne typhus?

The key to preventing flea-borne typhus is to avoid direct contact with fleas. 

KEEP FLEAS AWAY. Keep pets, yards, and homes free from fleas. Oral and topical flea medication is widely available for pets. Yards and homes should also be kept flea-free with flea-control mist, sprays, and powders.

KEEP YARDS AND HOMES FREE FROM OPOSSUMS AND OTHER WILD ANIMALS. Yards and homes should be kept clean and in good repair to keep animals from entering and living in these areas. Make sure there are no cracks or nesting areas where animals can access and live. Lawns should be trimmed and cleared of debris or other materials. Trash cans and other food sources (accessible pet food) can attract feral cats, opossums and other animals.

What animals can carry the typhus bacteria?

In the United States, opossums and other small mammals can carry the typhus bacteria. Rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) and cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) are most commonly associated with disease transmission. Fleas may become infected when they feed on these animals and then can transmit the bacteria to humans, pet dogs, and cats.

What are the symptoms of flea-borne typhus?

Although most illnesses are mild and undetected, many people infected with flea-borne typhus experience fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches 6 -14 days after the flea bite. Some people may also develop a rash that may begin on the chest and spreads to the sides and back. The majority of reported cases in California have required hospitalization.

How is flea-borne typhus diagnosed?

Flea-borne typhus is diagnosed through a combination of clinical symptoms and a blood test.


Where can I get more information on flea-borne typhus?