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County health officials respond to Skid Row typhus outbreak

Dangerous flea-borne disease

City News Service | 10/11/2018, midnight

Days after health officials reported that downtown Los Angeles is experiencing an outbreak of flea-borne typhus, a city councilman introduced a motion this week calling on health and sanitation officials to report on what actions are being taken to prevent the spread of the disease.

The county Department of Public Health announced last week that the downtown area was experiencing an outbreak, and officials in Pasadena announced the next day that the San Gabriel Valley city had seen 20 reported cases this year.

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the Skid Row area where an estimated 2,000 people sleep on the streets, introduced a motion that would direct the departments of Sanitation and Animal Services, and other departments as necessary, in cooperation with the county, to report to the Health, Education and Neighborhood Councils Committee on the actions necessary to address the public health issue caused by the outbreak.

Flea-borne typhus is a disease that infected fleas can spread to humans. It can cause high fever, chills, headache and rashes in people and can be treated with antibiotics.

The disease can spread in areas where there is an accumulation of trash that attracts wild animals like feral cats, rats and opossums. It is not transmitted person-to-person, according to the Department of Public Health.

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, and 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;

   — clean places where rats and stray animals sleep, hide or find food,

such as crawl spaces, attics or under decks; and

   — wear gloves and a mask when cleaning such areas, and wash hands

when finished.