The California city has seen a “significant increase” in flea-borne typhoid fever cases

The city of Long Beach, California saw a “significant increase” in the number of flea-transmitted cases of typhoid fever in the first half of 2021. The flea-borne disease, which can cause high fever, chills, headache, or nausea in some cases, serious illness, was first introduced to the area in 2006, according to health officials.

While the bacterial disease is now endemic to Long Beach, health officials say the number of cases reported so far is more than double what it is usually. According to the Long Beach Department of Health, officials have been notified of over 10 cases this year.

Officials noted that the surge is not specific to a geographic location in Long Beach, although it is considered a rare disease in the United States

The disease is spread to humans when the bacteria penetrate the skin by scratching after a bite from an infected flea, but most patients cannot remember actually being bitten. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fleas poop when you feed them, and the droppings can then be rubbed into the bite wound or other skin lesions that cause infection. People can also inhale bent-in flea droppings or rub their eyes, but it is not transmitted from person to person.

Rats, cats, dogs, raccoons, and possums can carry the fleas in or near homes. While the animals do not get typhoid, humans get sick.


Most people can make a full recovery, although some may need antibiotics.

In a press release released Tuesday, health officials shared tips on reducing the risk of infection, including regularly treating dogs and cats for fleas. Officials also advised against leaving animal feed outdoors, avoiding debris and overgrown vegetation, storing trash in cans with secure lids, and applying an EPA-registered insect repellent. They also warned not to provide food or water to wildlife.


“In Long Beach, every typhoid case requires that the patient be interviewed by an epidemiologist to determine exposure and provide clarification,” the press release said. “Cases are then referred to the vector control program, with visits to the homes where individual cases have occurred and the surrounding area to provide recommendations and education on how to avoid fleas around the home.”

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