The Los Angeles area is in the grip of a flea-borne typhus outbreak largely affecting the homeless, California health officials said, and it has reached “epidemic levels” in the city of Pasadena, NBC News reported.
There have been 20 reported cases over the last two months in Pasadena alone, with 12 reported cases for 2018 in Long Beach.
The Los Angeles County Department of Health reported nine official cases of typhus occurring between July and September 2018 in downtown Los Angeles, all of which required hospitalization.
Of these cases, six were from people who were homeless or living in interim housing facilities.
Flea-borne typhus is transmitted by fleas infected with Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia felis, health officials said. In Los Angeles, the common culprits spreading the disease are rats, feral cats and opossums.
In most cases the illness is presented as mild to moderate however, for those without proper medical care, it can be severe and could contribute to an increasing spread of infections, a previous study noted.
Experts have argued that the outbreak is a result of the inhumane living conditions in which the homeless are forced to live in.
“All of the cases have a history of living or working in the downtown Los Angeles area,” a county health spokeswoman told NBC News of the typhus outbreak.
According to the University of California, nearly 58,000 people experienced homelessness in Los Angeles in 2017, which was 27 percent more than the previous year.
These growing numbers have left health officials concerned that the situation was giving rise to public health outbreaks such as typhus as well as hepatitis A.
Addressing the typhus outbreak, mayoral spokesman Alex Comisar told NBC News that the city was “deploying every available resource to help control and stop this outbreak.”
A dedicated task team has been set up to monitor the situation and “ensure everyone gets the treatment they need as quickly as possible,” Comisar said.
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