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Downtown Los Angeles hit with outbreak of flea-borne typhus

LOS ANGELES — An outbreak of flea-borne typhus has hit downtown Los Angeles, the county Department of Public Health said Thursday. Health officials say they are investigating several cases of the disease that infected fleas can spread to humans, CBS Los Angeles reports

While the fleas can come from cats, rats and opossums, pets and animals do not get sick from typhus.

In people, however, typhus can cause high fever, chills, headache and rash. It is not transmitted from person to person and can be treated with antibiotics.

"Although typhus normally occurs throughout L.A. County, we are observing several cases in the downtown Los Angeles area," Los Angeles County Health Officer Muntu Davis said in a statement. "We encourage pet owners to practice safe flea control and encourage all cities in the county to ensure maintenance of their trash clean-up and rodent control activities."

Typhus can spread in areas where there is an accumulation of trash that attracts wild animals like feral cats, rats and opossums.

To help prevent typhus, the department recommended that residents:

  • Practice safe flea control
  • Use flea control products on pets
  • Wear pants tucked into socks or boots when outside; Spray insect repellent with DEET on socks and pant cuffs
  • Avoid being near wild or stray animals
  • Never feed or touch wild animals, especially opossums, rats and stray or feral cats
  • Store trash in cans with secure lids to avoid attracting animals
  • Clear areas where rats and stray animals sleep, hide or find food, such as crawl spaces, attics or under decks; Wear gloves and a mask when clearing these areas
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