A Los Angeles Police Department employee at the Central Station was being treated Thursday after contracting the bacteria that causes typhoid fever, although it remained unclear exactly how the person came in contact with the illness.
LAPD officials confirmed Wednesday that a second employee at the station had developed symptoms consistent with the salmonella typhi bacteria, although an exact diagnosis had not yet been made. On Thursday, the department confirmed that a third employee had gone home with similar symptoms.
A department spokesman declined Wednesday to say if the employees were officers, but the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union for most LAPD officers, indicated that a sworn employee had contracted the disease. The Los Angeles Times, citing an unnamed source, reported that the employees were detectives.
The department’s Central Station is located at 251 E. Sixth St., near Skid Row, in downtown Los Angeles.
The Times reported Thursday that the LAPD was fined $5,425 by the state Department of Industrial Relations two weeks ago for failing to train employees about how typhus fever is transmitted, the symptoms of the illness or measures that can be taken to prevent it. The state also faulted the agency for not having an extermination program to control rats, fleas, roaches, gnats, mosquitoes or grasshoppers — all of which were found at the station during a November inspection, The Times reported.
The LAPD issued a statement in response, saying it was reviewing the state’s report.
“The state’s report is concerning and we are taking steps to ensure the men and women who work for the Los Angeles Police Department can come to work in a healthy environment,” according to the LAPD.
“We are collaborating with the city’s General Services Department, Personnel Division, Facilities Management Division and Central Bureau facilities personnel to address the concerns of our employees and mitigate any possible exposure to diseases at all of our facilities. We are committed to creating and maintaining healthy communities in Los Angeles, including our own places of work.”
LAPD officials said Wednesday night it is working “to disinfect any work areas that may have been exposed.”
“The health and well-being of every LAPD employee is vital and we will be working diligently to ensure we are (creating) a safe work environment. Unfortunately, our police officers often patrol in adverse environments and can be exposed to various dangerous elements” according to the LAPD. “We have notified the Police Protective League as well as all of our employees working at Central Division about the outbreak and we have further provided them with strategies to stay healthy while we mitigate this issue.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, typhoid fever is not common in the United States, where about 350 people are diagnosed with the illness each year. Most of those cases involve people who have traveled outside the country.
Symptoms include sustained fever that can reach 104 degrees, weakness, stomach pain, headache, diarrhea or constipation, coughing and loss of appetite. The disease is treated with antibiotics.
Typhoid fever is different from typhus, which 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 of Skid Row, where an estimated 2,000 homeless people sleep.
An employee at City Hall East also came down with typhus, leading to a sweeping inspection of city buildings in the Civic Center area.
In an interview with NBC4, Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “We always have to look out for our police officers. We care deeply about them, and that’s why we should regularly making sure we’re out there, tripling the amount of the cleanups we’re doing.
“But we need also to make sure people aren’t dumping things illegally, work with the county to make sure we have all of the vaccinations and all the health for our firefighters and police officers that are right there on the front line,” he told the station.
The LAPPL called the typhoid fever case the latest outbreak affecting its membership in the last two years, which has seen cases of hepatitis A, MRSA, typhus and bedbugs.
“At this point we don’t care who is at fault, we just want these toxic work sites cleaned and sanitized,” according to a statement from the union’s board of directors. “Officers worry enough about being shot or injured policing the streets of Los Angeles; they shouldn’t also have to worry about being infected with diseases they can take home to their families simply by showing up to work. Our demand is simple: Clean it up and provide preventive measures before there is a massive outbreak.”
Earlier this month, the LAPD closed its Pacific Station jail due to a bedbug infestation. Prior to that, three officers developed a highly contagious staph infection at the West Valley Station in Reseda. A police union officials said the infections were due to an encounter with a homeless person at the station.