The number of flea-born Typhus cases in Los Angeles has hit 107.
So far this year 72 patients have been recorded by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health with a further 15 in Long Beach and 20 in Pasadena.
In the 2000s there were around 20 cases recorded per year and analysts are putting the dramatic rise down to a 47 per cent increase in homelessness since 2012.
One official in Long Beach told NBC News that almost half a million potential cases are ‘under investigation.’
Pasedena and Long Beach have separate health boards to LA which is why cases are counted separately
In the 2000s there were around 20 cases recorded per year and analysts are putting the dramatic rise down to a 47 per cent increase in homelessness since 2012 (stock image)
At the start of this month, Pasadena, a city in the north of the county and home to around 135,000 people, reported epidemic levels of typhus fever.
But no new cases have been reported there since October 5.
Flea-borne typhus occurs when faeces from an infected insect come into contact with a person’s cut or gets rubbed into their eyes.
These fleas often live on feral cats and rats who are attracted to areas with trash on the streets.
Most sufferers endure headache, fever and rash, however, in severe cases, typhus can lead to life-threatening hepatitis and internal bleeding.
WHAT IS FLEA-BORNE TYPHUS?
Flea-borne typhus is a bacterial disease that causes fever, headache, rash, muscle ache, and fever and chills.
In severe cases, patients can require hospitalisation due to hepatitis or internal bleeding.
It is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia typhi and possibly Rickettsia felis, which are carried by fleas.
The fleas live on animals, particularly feral and stray cats, rats and opossums, but do not make their host animals unwell.
Flea-borne typhus is endemic in parts of LA and Orange County.
The disease also often occurs in Texas and Hawaii.
Around 200 cases occur every year throughout the US, particularly in coastal regions.
Bacteria spread when faeces from an infected flea contaminate a person’s cut or graze while the flea is sucking their blood.
If the person scratches the flea-bite area, the bacteria from the faeces can enter their bloodstream.
Bacteria can also be rubbed into a person’s eyes, or, in rare cases, inhaled.
Symptoms then appear six-to-14 days later.
Flea-borne typhus can be treated via antibiotics, with most people recovering within a few days.
Between two and four percent of people who do not receive treatment die worldwide.
Flea-borne typhus can be prevented by avoiding contact with fleas via:
- Discouraging wild animals around the home
- Keeping rubbish covered
- Using flea control on pets
Dr Ying-Ying Goh, Pasadena’s health officer, said: ‘Typhus fever is a disease that can cause serious complications requiring lengthy hospitalization, and rarely, death.’
She encouraged all residents in the city to take precautions in order to prevent fleas in and around their homes, CNN reports.
Dr Anne Rimoin, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of California, told CNN: ‘Right now, it’s hard to speculate on why we are seeing more cases.
‘There is an ongoing investigation by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health that seeks to answer this question.’
Earlier this month it was reported that a dozen cases of the disease appeared in a residential neighbourhood of LA.
All of the sufferers lived or worked in the immediate area, with some being homeless. The infection usually takes two weeks to cause symptoms.
Typhus usually affects around 200 people across the US every year, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
Health officials were alerted to the outbreak when a cluster of nine cases occurred in downtown LA between July and August.
The infection is endemic in parts of LA and Orange County, Southern California.
Fleas carrying the infection can live on cats, rats or opossums, however, the animals themselves do not suffer symptoms.
Typhus often spreads in areas where there is an accumulation of trash that attracts wild animals.
The infection cannot be transmitted from person-to-person and is treatable with antibiotics. There is no vaccine in the US.
Up to four per cent of people worldwide who are untreated die, the CDPH claims.
To prevent infection, LA’s public health department recommends residents use flea control on pets, tuck their pants into their socks or boots when outside and avoid wild or stray animals.
Texas experienced a flea-borne typhus outbreak around this time last year.
More than 400 cases occurred from the start of 2017 to the end of November – the highest number for 16 years.
Flea-borne typhus occurs when faeces from an infected insect come into contact with a person’s cut or gets rubbed into their eyes. The insects often live on feral cats and rats (stock)