A big pile of rat-infested trash has been piling up for months on Ceres Avenue and now health officials are concerned the build-up of trash like this could be a cause of an outbreak of typhus among the homeless in downtown.
Typhus is a rarely fatal bacterial disease often brought on by infected fleas that live on rodents, cats, and dogs that are drawn to garbage, and can spread to humans. Symptoms include fever, headache, and a rash.
Mayor Eric Garcetti caught wind of the outbreak last week from the County Department of Public Health and vowed to crack the case himself.
NBC4 Los Angeles I-Team showed Garcetti pictures of the garbage mountain and was left in shock.
"It's disgusting and it's unacceptable," Garcetti told NBC4, and when asked about why the trash had never been cleaned up he responded, "well, it should have been. And we're going to get to the bottom of why it wasn't and make sure that it is."
So far this year, LA County has reported 57 cases of typhus with nine cases originating in what officials are calling "The Typhus Zone," a section of downtown LA encompassing Skid Row and newer upscale residential housing and businesses.
People who work in the downtown and Skid Row areas say they have incessantly complained about the piles of trash with many calls to the city's 311 number but the calls often go unanswered.
The I-Team obtained records from the Department of Sanitation that show that is all very true. 311 received more than 2,200 calls over a two-year period to pick up trash near homeless encampments but failed to respond to more than half of those calls.
Garcetti expressed his sincere condolences for the neglected 311 calls:
"If someone is calling 311 and not getting through that's unacceptable," he told NBC4. "Things sometime slip through the cracks but this is unacceptable and I'm going to make sure that it doesn't happen."
The clean-up of the trash has already allegedly begun after Garcetti's spokesman said the city is now allocating an extra $300,000 to clean up trash and sanitize streets around the "Typhus Zone."
LA begins increased effort to clean up filth, like this dead rat I saw downtown today, from more city streets. @MayorOfLA authorizes an extra $300,000 for street sanitizing, but @NBCLA I-Team shows how it might not be enough to stem outbreak of typhus. Our report on NBC4 at 5pm. pic.twitter.com/GNfHKJtdJp— Joel Grover (@JoelNBCLA) October 10, 2018
NBC4 I-Team reporter Joel Grover joined the show to discuss the alarming problem.
Photo: Getty Images