Typhus: A Flea Borne Illness
We recently had an incidence of typhus here in Southern California. Although the disease is rare, the rates are slightly higher in the Los Angeles metropolitan area than they are everywhere else. According to media reports, the person who recently contracted it here has since recovered. But many of us still deal with basic questions: what is typhus? What do feral cats have to do with typhus? How can we prevent it?
#1: Typhus is rare, and easily treated.
Typhus is a rare bacterial infection that is easily treated with antibiotics. The disease is characterized by a very high fever, along with other symptoms. It is rarely fatal, but can be, especially in people with suppressed immune systems. Murine typhus is completely different from typhoid fever, and has a much lower fatality rate.
#2: Typhus is spread by fleas and lice.
Typhus is spread by fleas, or sometimes lice, and is usually transmitted by animals bearing fleas or lice. Studies show that people who own pets are at an increased risk of infection. Outbreaks of typhus can lead to community cats or feral cats getting blamed for infections, although those of us who are familiar with feral cats know that they never willingly get close enough to humans to transmit fleas.
#3: Flea control is the most effective way to control typhus.
Sometimes in an effort to protect humans from a disease that can be fatal, governmental authorities will take drastic measures, such as trapping and euthanizing wildlife or even feral cats. Needless to say, this is an extremely inefficient way to control the spread of typhus, not to mention, highly unfortunate for the trapped feral cats! The most efficient way to stop a flea-borne illness is by controlling the flea population. Local citizens can do that by ensuring their pets are under flea control, particularly in the hot summer months when flea populations expand. There are also safe, non-toxic products on the market for a homeowner to spread throughout their yard or garden to prevent flea infestations.
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