Health department issues info on fleaborne typhus

The City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services (Health Department) is alerting the public about fleaborne typhus, a disease transmitted by fleas. Since July 2009, eight cases of fleaborne typhus have been reported among Long Beach residents throughout the city– an increase over previous years. All of the
reported cases had potential exposure to fleas that may have been carried by opossums, cats or rodents. Prior to 2006, fleaborne typhus was not known to be present in Long Beach, but it is now known to occur throughout Southern California.
Fleaborne typhus is a disease spread by fleas living on rodents (rats, mice), opossums, cats, raccoons, and/or other flea-bearing animals. People get the disease through the bites of infected fleas; fleaborne typhus is not spread from person to person. The most common symptoms of fleaborne typhus are high fevers, severe headaches, body aches and a rash. The disease is rarely fatal, but people can become sick enough to be hospitalized.
Public health officials will continue to monitor and test for evidence of the disease in areas throughout the city. Health Department staff will be distributing informational door hangers in areas where fleaborne typhus has been reported. This information is also available by visiting and clicking on “Animal Care Services.” Area veterinarians are being issued a letter requesting they educate pet owners on the importance of flea control
in preventing this disease. The Health Department has also issued letters to area healthcare providers providing guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of fleaborne typhus.
Public health officials are urging residents to protect themselves and their neighbors by following a few simple guidelines:
1. Consult your veterinarian regarding safe flea-control medications for pets.
2. Keep your home and yard in good repair by removing overgrown vegetation and debris where rodents, opossums and feral cats may hide. Keep screens on crawl space covers and vents in good repair.
3. Avoid contact with animals that carry fleas. Do not attempt to capture and relocate these animals to other areas.
4. Eliminate all food and water sources around your home, including open trash cans, fallen fruit around the yard, pet food, and bird feeders.
5. When cleaning nesting areas of rats and opossums, spray area with disinfectant, and wear protective clothing and equipment such as a mask, goggles and gloves.
6. When treating your yard or animal harborage areas with insecticides, only use products labeled for flea control and follow all directions carefully.
7. Contact the Health Department’s Animal Care Services by email at if you have questions about managing wild animals on your property. More information about urban wildlife is available online at
8. Report dead opossums or cats to Animal Care Services for removal by calling (562) 570-PETS (7387).

For more information about fleaborne typhus, contact the Health Department’s Epidemiology Program at (562) 570-4302.

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