Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has introduced a motion to bring forward a public health-centered effort to address the emergence of diseases that have impacted the county, especially among the homeless population.
The motion by Barger and Supervisor Janice Hahn introduces a new concept that involves county partnership with cities to coordinate housing placement efforts and public health prevention efforts in areas where city sanitation resources are deployed.
Typically, when unsanitary, high-risk areas are cleaned out by local agencies, the people occupying those areas temporarily move and come back when cleaning efforts are complete.
“This program seeks to put an end to this cycle,” Barger said. “It is simply inhumane to stand by while people are living in dangerous conditions. Our communities deserve better, and the time to act is now.”
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s data, there has been a fluctuating upward trend in annual typhus cases since 2009. In 2016, there were 47 confirmed cases of typhus. The following year in 2017, there were 67 confirmed cases. This year so far, 2018 has seen 63 confirmed cases.
These numbers exclude Pasadena and Long Beach, as both cities have independent health departments which track and respond to cases in their respective cities.
In 2018, Pasadena Public Health has confirmed 20 cases of typhus and the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services has reported 12 cases.
Flea-borne typhus, also known as murine or endemic typhus, is transmitted to humans by fleas that are infected with two bacteria Rickettsia typhi and Rickettsia felis. The most frequent hosts of infected fleas are rats, cats and opossums.
Symptoms of flea-borne typhus among infected humans include high fever, chills, headache and rashes. While typhus can be effectively treated with antibiotics, typhus can result in hospitalization and, in very rare cases, death.