One day after the Los Angeles City Council president announced that all of the carpets at City Hall may need to be removed due to the high number of rodents and fleas in the building, the L.A. County Department of Public Health said Thursday that it is continuing to investigate the occurrence of flea-borne typhus and encouraged everyone to take steps to reduce their risk of infection.
“Flea-borne typhus is regularly found each year throughout Los Angeles County, and cases can cluster over periods of time in areas where environmental factors support wild animals that can harbor infected fleas,” said Los Angeles County Health Officer Muntu Davis. “I appreciate how cities have expanded trash clean-up and rodent control activities, and I continue to encourage all cities in Los Angeles County to continue those actions. I recommend that pet owners practice safe flea control as well.”
Typhus is not transmitted person-to-person, and flea-borne typhus can spread to people from infected fleas and their feces.
Health officials in October announced there was a typhus outbreak in Los Angeles County, including in the downtown area that includes Skid Row, where an estimated 2,000 homeless people sleep.
From 2013-2017, the average number of reported cases in the county of flea-borne typhus doubled to nearly 60 cases per year, and from 2018 to date, there have been a total of 107 documented cases of flea-borne typhus, the Department of Public Health said.
Since October, there has been a total of 19 documented cases in downtown Los Angeles, with eight out of 19 in people experiencing homelessness, the department said.
One of the cases is a City Hall East employee who told NBC4 she is convinced she contracted typhus in November through contact with fleas in her office.
Council President Herb Wesson introduced a motion on Wednesday that says there has been a “noticeable increase in the volume of rodents in the area and within city buildings,” and also referenced the recent report by NBC4 on the sick employee.
The motion also says that Wesson’s office became aware of vermin issues within his personal City Hall office in November and brought in pest control experts who set traps, advised the removal of all live plants which the rodents were consuming, and recommended the removal or containment of all food products.
The motion says that within two weeks, Wesson’s office was also experiencing fleas in the carpets, and removed them.
“Since the work has been completed, our employees have not reported any new rodent or flea issues within the office,” the motion states.
The motion would instruct city staff to report back with a cost estimate and plan to remove all carpets in City Hall and City Hall East, and to report back with an assessment of all live plants in any city building, city-owned facility and city-operated facility within downtown, including which varieties are most attractive to vermin.
Typhus infection can be prevented through flea control measures on pets, using insect repellent to avoid flea bites, and clearing areas that can attract wild or stray animals like cats, rats and opossums, the Department of Public Health said.
Symptoms of typhus include high fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and rash and can be treated with antibiotics.
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