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Flea-borne Typhus is a Problem again in Orange County, CA

The Southern California Veterinary Medical Association recently notified Orange County Veterinarians that flea-borne typhus is again a problem in OC

Murine Typhus is a problem in both LA and Orange Counties. Veterinarians should educate pet owners about this flea-borne disease and encourage the use of monthly flea preventative treatments for both cats and dogs, not only to protect the pet from these pesky insects, but to protect their families too.

Five people in Orange County, including one under 18, have been diagnosed with confirmed or probable infections caused by flea-borne typhus during the past three months, the county’s Health Care Agency reported Wednesday. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and a rash on the chest, back, arms or legs. The disease is treatable with antibiotics, but it can be fatal if left untreated, says Michael Hearst, district manager for the county’s Vector Control.

The disease, also known as endemic typhus, isn’t passed from person to person. Instead, it’s transmitted by the bites of infected fleas. In most of the O.C. cases the past few years, people have been infected by a family cat, although other animals can carry the fleas, including rats, opossums and raccoons.

“Everybody we talked to had adopted a feral cat, or had a cat that was in and out a lot,” Hearst said.

Between 1994 and 2005, there were no reported cases of flea-borne typhus in the county. There was one case in 2006, six in 2007, 15 in 2008, and six cases each in 2009 and ’10. ”

“We’ve had more cases in the last three years than in the previous 50,” Hearst said.

There have been eight reported cases in 2011. Of the five in the last three months, four were adults and one was under 18, HCA said. All live in North County, although infected animals can be found in any part of the county.

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