Typhus case raises concerns over fleas in San Diego

One person already hospitalized by disease
Posted at 10:11 AM, Jun 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-13 15:01:00-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The appearance of Murine Typhus in San Diego in May has raised concerns among health professionals and veterinarians about fleas. Now they're warning everyone to take extra precautions for themselves and their pets.

According to the CDC, Murine Typhus is spread only through contact with infected fleas. Its symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, cough and a rash. Most cases are treated with antibiotics. Severe cases can lead to organ damage and possibly death.

In San Diego, the County Health Center says they usually only see one case of Murine Typhus per year.

The one reported in May was not fatal. A woman who lived in the North Park had to be hospitalized after getting the disease.

“The woman who became ill had an indoor/outdoor cat and remembered being bitten by fleas before getting sick,” said Dr. Sayone Thihalolipavan in a release from the County Health Center.

"Keeping fleas off your pets and out of your homes is the best prevention for murine typhus," he adds.

Veterinarians say the appearance of typhus makes it crucial that people get flea and tick prevention this summer. Dr. Ann Eliopulos, the Medical Director of the Bodhi Animal Hospital in North Park, says she's making sure he patients get the message.

"Fleas travel through our yards. They are in the environment. There's no avoiding contact with them if your animal is outside in your yard or at parks or anywhere," she says.

Dr. Eliopulos says pet owners shouldn't rely on store-bought or over-the-counter medicines. The fleas in San Diego have built a tolerance to things like Frontline or Advantix because they've been around for such a long time.

"With consistent use, the fleas should be gone from the environment within 2-3 weeks," she says.

Officials with County Vector Control say you should also try to eliminate fleas from around your homes. That includes getting rid of any host animals like possums and rats. They also say people should make sure their insect repellent keeps fleas away when they do outdoor activities like hiking or camping.