Barger calls for action to prevent and respond to growing number of typhus cases

LOS ANGELES COUNTY –Today, Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn introduced a motion directing the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to develop a typhus prevention and response plan in coordination with Pasadena Public Health Department and the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently initiated response to a typhus outbreak in Downtown Los Angeles.  There have been 9 recently confirmed cases of typhus in Downtown Los Angeles.  This brings the total number of County confirmed cases to 59 since the beginning of 2018.

When examining Los Angeles County Department of Public Health data, there has been a fluctuating upward trend in annual typhus cases since 2009.  In 2016, there were 47 confirmed cases of typhus.  The following year, 2017, reached 67 confirmed cases of typhus.  This year so far, 2018 reached 59 confirmed cases of typhus. These numbers exclude Pasadena and Long Beach cases, as both cities have independent health departments which track and respond to cases in their respective cities. 

Separately, Pasadena Public Health has confirmed 20 cases of typhus and the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services has reported that there have been 12 cases, both since the beginning of 2018. 

The motion, which will be considered by the Board next Tuesday, includes a report back in 45 days with a plan and the summary of outreach and engagement effort. 

Flea-borne typhus, also known as murine or endemic typhus, is transmitted to humans by fleas that are infected with two bacteria Rickettsia typhi and R. felis.  The most frequent hosts of infected fleas are rats, cats, and opossums.  Symptoms of flea-borne typhus among infected humans include high fever, chills, headache and rash.  While typhus can be effectively treated with antibiotics, typhus infection can result in hospitalization and, in very rare cases, death.

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