What is flea-borne typhus?
Flea-borne typhus is a disease that fleas can spread to humans. Rickettsia typhi bacteria (germs) found in infected fleas, and their feces (poop) cause typhus. Fleas leave feces on the skin when they bite. The infection happens when the feces are scratched into the bite site or other skin opening. It can also spread when we rub our eyes or breathe in the germs found in the flea feces. Flea-borne typhus happens in Southern California, Texas and Hawaii.
How is flea-borne typhus spread?
The typhus bacteria infects the fleas of the rats, opossums and cats, though dogs can be affected too. These animals often come into close contact with people. Infected animals don't usually show signs that they're sick. These animals are found in both urban and suburban settings. High numbers of these animals are found when human activities provide a food source. Typhus can spread to other areas when these animals (with their fleas) move from place to place. That is why these animals should not be moved to another area. Relocating opossums violates Texas Fish and Game laws and is considered inhumane.
What are the symptoms?
Signs of typhus can start 6 to 14 days after exposure (having contact) to the infected flea. Many people have fever, headache, chills, body aches and pains. A rash can appear on the chest, back, arms or legs. In rare cases, there may be swelling at the lining of the brain (meningitis) and heart valves (endocarditis). Typhus signs look like many other diseases and is diagnosed with a specific blood test. Contact your doctor if you think you have been infected. This disease is treated only with certain antibiotics that can kill Rickettsia typhi bacteria.
Four tips to keep your family and pets safe from flea-borne typhus.
In urban settings, typhus infects rats and their fleas. In a suburban setting, typhus infects cats and opossums and their fleas. Most flea-borne typhus cases are reported from the suburban setting.
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