Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | August 28, 2012

Typhus Cases Rise in the US: Are you prepared?

Let’s keep the fleas where they belong…on cats. Er, I mean…let’s prevent fleas from biting, which can lead to Typhus.

There are so many infectious diseases; the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has to organize them on their website from A-Z. And while we’ve focused on many of these over the past several years, until now, we have yet to use the RJWestmore blog platform to discuss one that is little known but quickly spreading…Typhus. No wonder we haven’t focused on it. It’s gross. But that’s just my humble firedog opinion.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Typhus is a bacterial disease spread by lice or fleas occurring mainly in the southeastern and southern United States, most often during the summer and fall. See what I mean? Fleas are gross. So, obviously, any disease they carry is equally disgusting. Typhus is contracted by exposure to animals such as cats, opossums, raccoons, skunks and rats that have been bitten by infected fleas or lice. Health officials say that Endemic Typhus Fever is caused by a bacterium known as Rickettsiae which is not directly spread from person to person.

KTLA News at 5 reports that four Burbank residents have recently been diagnosed with Murine Typhus over the past several weeks. All were treated at area hospitals and released after having complained of brutal symptoms such as abdominal pain, backache, diarrhea, a dull red rash, extremely high fever, a dry hacking cough, joint and muscle pain, nausea and vomiting. To ward off a potential epidemic, Orange County officials set out in May of this year to track and capture feral cats, which they suspected may be spreading the disease. There have been 46 cases of Typhus in Orange County since 2006. Any cases at all are enough for concern, if you ask me. I think we should start an anti-flea campaign!

The Los Angeles Times reports that 15 cases of Typhus have been confirmed so far this year, with an additional 17 still under investigation. In 2011, 38 cases were reported in LA County. The Burbank Animal Shelter is taking action by advising people to take precautions against Typhus fever amid reports the flea-borne disease had infected several people in the city and throughout the San Fernando Valley.

Symptoms of Epidemic Typhus

  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Delirium
  • High fever (104 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Joint pain
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rash that begins on the chest and spreads to the body (except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet)
  • Severe headache
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Stupor

Prevent the Further Spread of Typhus

  • Treat pets with flea- prevention medication. I’m a big proponent of this! Keep fleas off of your canine (and, yes…even your feline).
  • Eliminate places where wild animals could find shelter and food sources on your property. Give all food to your dog. Just a suggestion.
  • Pay particular attention to where young children play, particularly if stray cats roam the area. Or you could start an anti-stray cat campaign. You could even use me as the mascot!
  • Advise children to stay away from feral cats and wild animals. Amen!
  • Wear long sleeve shirts and pants. (Admittedly, this could be difficult to do in extreme heat. But, to be safe, whenever possible, cover yourself to avoid potentially harmful insect bites.) My entire body is covered with hair and yet I get bit all of the time.
  • Use insect repellant to eliminate flea bites.
  • Do not feed wildlife or feral cats, as they contribute to the flea population. Why not extend this to all cats…just to be safe?
  • Keep your pets on a monthly flea protocol program. The best products kill fleas on pets on contact. I wear a flea collar. But some of my friends take medicine.
  • Use flea combs to check for flea fecal matter on your pets. Bathe them regularly to eliminate this disgusting accumulation. This is a great idea…especially in the heat!
  • Keep pet cars indoors and register them with local Animal Control.
  • Report dead opossums or cats to Animal Care Services for removal. Gross.
  • Trim brush, pick up fallen fruit and seal off crawl spaces to discourage wildlife from establishing residence on your property. Let your dogs take care of scraps.
  • Keep screens on crawl space covers and vents in good repair
  • When cleaning potential wildlife nesting areas, wear protective equipment including a mask, goggles and gloves.

Typhus Treatment

Perhaps the most famous victims of Typhus were Anne Frank and her sister Margo, both of whom purportedly died of the disease while in a concentration camp in 1945. However, experts agree that today, although painful and irritating, Typhus is not usually life-threatening, since it can be treated with antibiotics.

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