Typhus Reaches 'Epidemic Levels' In Southern California

Health officials in Southern California are warning residents to be aware of a typhus outbreak that's reached 'epidemic' levels in some areas of the Southland. In a release, the Pasadena Public Health Department reported "epidemic levels of typhus fever this year," with 20 cases diagnosed so far, most of which occurred in the last two months. USC Associate Professor of Medicine Neha Nanda says the disease is spread by infected fleas.

"It is something that you see here, however what's different this year is there's this clustering of this disease in downtown L.A., so hence the concern of this being an epidemic," Nanda said. 

Long Beach has also seen a high number of infections with 12 cases so far in 2018. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Infection says typhus, or typhus fever is an infectious disease spread by fleas. Symptoms can include high fever, headache, chills, and body aches, rashes and in some rare cases, meningitis and even death. 

"So, we know why it's happening, and it's not something that's new. It's something this thing, has been prevalent in this area in the past, it's just the numbers are higher and what's reassuring is that, if caught in time, it's easily treatable. Hence, we shouldn't panic," Nanda said. 

"Typhus fever is a disease that can cause serious complications requiring lengthy hospitalization, and rarely, death," said Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, Pasadena Health Officer. "All residents should to take steps to prevent fleas in and around the home."

Officially, the source of the outbreak is said to be from fleas found on pets and wild animals, but some health experts believe it's being fueled by the homeless crisis.

Nanda says there are some good ways to reduce the chance of being exposed to the disease-carrying-fleas. 

"Getting rid of trash regularly. Wearing your insect repellent, perhaps wear gloves when you handle your sick animals or dead animals. Regularly check your pets, and try to do something for the homeless," Nanda said.