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3 LA County Deaths Show Flea-Borne Typhus Is on the Rise | Health

Friday, August 4, 2023 (Health Day News) — Flea-borne typhus cases are on the rise in Los Angeles County, with 171 cases and three deaths reported in 2022, health officials say. reported on Thursday.

The researchers noted that this was a significant increase. Since just 31 cases of typhus were reported in 2010, fleas have spread the disease widely in California.

Many infected people are unaware that they are ill, but those with serious medical conditions are at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Although we do not fully understand how typhus causes complications, we do know that flea-borne typhus can cause common complications such as sepsis, fever and liver problems. said the report’s authors. Dr. Gemma Alarcon, an employee of the CDC Office of Epidemic Intelligence stationed in Los Angeles. The report was released at the CDC on August 4. Weekly reports of morbidity and mortality.

“Most people have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. They may just have a headache and not even realize it’s theirs,” she explained. “Unfortunately, in this case, flea-borne typhus has affected patients…one of whom had an overactive heart, one with an overactive immune system, and the last one with sepsis and blood poisoning. It was related to the problem.”

co-author of the report Dr. Umme Ayman HalaiThe Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced that the number of infected fleas on animals that people come into contact with is increasing in Los Angeles.

“There could be population expansion into the suburbs, increased contact with wildlife, and lack of rodent control programs in urban centers and suburbs,” she noted.

It’s also possible that global warming is increasing flea infestations, but that’s just speculation, Harai said.

Regardless of the reason for the rise in cases, one expert said doctors should be careful.

“This is a rare and unusual condition, and reports of this increasing frequency show that things are constantly changing in this world,” he said. Dr. Bruce HirschInfectious Disease Specialist, North Shore University Hospital, Manhassett, NY

These three deaths are unusual, he said.

“People with other health conditions are more vulnerable to all kinds of complications and all kinds of consequences,” Hersh said. “Flea-borne typhus must also be added to that list.”

Alarcon is also concerned that doctors don’t think of typhus when symptoms appear. “We are concerned that patients may see a doctor but the doctor may not know how to test for this disease,” she said.

To protect yourself, researchers suggested exterminating fleas on pets and avoiding contact with animals that may be carrying fleas.

In the first case detailed in the report, a 68-year-old Hispanic man with lymph node disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity was hospitalized with typhus and treated with the antibiotic doxycycline. But then he died of blood disease and septic shock.

The second patient, a 49-year-old Hispanic woman also treated with doxycycline, had several cardiac arrests and later died of multiple organ failure from typhus. A woman had a stray cat in her backyard.

A third patient, a 71-year-old Hispanic man with a weakened immune system, died of septic shock also associated with typhus infection. This patient lived in a homeless camp, where he was likely exposed to infected fleas.

Harai said the fact that all the patients were Hispanic was irrelevant. She explained that it simply reflects the population of Los Angeles.

Flea-borne typhus is caused by a bacterium called Rickettsia typhus. It is spread by contact with fleas, which become infected when fleas bite infected animals such as rats, cats and opossums. Once bitten, diseases carried by flea droppings can enter the wound and cause illness. Infected poop may be inhaled or rubbed in the eye. This bacterium is not transmitted from person to person. According to the CDC, flea-borne typhus occurs in tropical and subtropical climates worldwide, including Southern California, Texas, and Hawaii.

Just last month, a Texas man contracted an epidemic and lost part of his hand and leg. Severe cases of epidemic typhus and go into septic shock.

Symptoms begin within two weeks after contact with infected fleas or flea droppings and may include:

  • fever and chills
  • body aches and muscle aches
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomachache
  • cough
  • Rash (usually occurs about 5 days after onset)

Serious illness is rare, and most people recover completely, but some recover without treatment. But if the disease is not treated, it can cause serious illness and damage one or more organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and brain, says the CDC.

“The biggest concern here is that the diagnosis may be underestimated because many of the symptoms are easily mistaken for other conditions, so they need to be treated early,” said an infectious disease expert. said the house. Dr. Mark SiegelProfessor of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Siegel said typhus can be easily treated with doxycycline.

But he is concerned about the rising rodent and rat populations in Los Angeles. “He’s worried that the typhus-carrying fleas are on the rise, but he doesn’t know how to stop them,” he says.

For more information

For more information on typhus, please visit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: Gemma Alarcon, M.D., Office of Communicable Disease Information, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Umme Ayman Harai, M.D., Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Los Angeles. Mark Siegel, M.D., Professor of Medicine, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York City. Bruce Hirsch, M.D., infectious disease specialist, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, NY. Weekly reports of morbidity and mortality4 August 2023

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