City of Long Beach Public Information Office 411 W. Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90802
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEPress Release # 062921
Long Beach Reports Increase in Spread of Flea-Borne Typhus
Jennifer Rice Epstein
Public Affairs Officer
Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services
The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services (Health Department) has observed a significant increase in typhus cases in the first half of 2021. Cases of flea-borne typhus in Long Beach are currently more than double that of past years, with 10 cases reported so far, compared to a year-to-date average of 4 cases. In Long Beach, each typhus case requires the patient be interviewed by an epidemiologist to determine exposures and conduct education. Cases are then referred to the Vector Control Program, with visits to the homes where individual cases have occurred and their surrounding neighborhood to provide recommendations and education on how to avoid fleas in the home. Flea-borne typhus, also known as murine typhus, was first introduced to Long Beach in 2006 and is now endemic to Long Beach, which means a certain number of cases are expected each year. This year’s increase in cases is not specific to one geographical location in Long Beach, as cases have been found throughout the city. Flea-borne typhus is caused by a bacteria (Rickettsia typhi and R. felis) which enters the skin through scratching following a bite from an infected flea.Infected fleas can be carried by rats, domestic or feral cats, dogs, raccoons and opossums. Most infected patients do not recall a flea bite, but often have contact with animals such as pet dogs or cats that carry these fleas into or near their home. Pets and animals do not become sick from typhus; however, in humans, typhus can cause high fever, chills, headache and rash. Typhus can be treated with antibiotics, but untreated disease can cause severe illness. Residents are encouraged to protect themselves and their families from flea-borne typhus and prevent the spread of typhus by doing the following:
Practice safe flea control by treating pet dogs and cats regularly.
Do not leave pet food outdoors.
Avoid debris and overgrown vegetation that may harbor wild animals.
Do not provide food or water for wild animals.
Store trash in cans with secure lids.
Apply an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent labeled for use against fleas if there is a risk of exposure during activities such as working outdoors.
The Health Department continues to conduct heightened surveillance and response activities around flea-borne typhus. For more information regarding flea-borne typhus, visit www.longbeach.gov/Typhus. Media questions may be directed to Jennifer Rice Epstein, Public Affairs Officer, Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, at Jennifer.RiceEpstein@longbeach.gov or 562.441.3590.