An outbreak of typhus has reached “epidemic levels" in the the Los Angeles area, experts have warned.
“The Pasadena Public Health Department is reporting epidemic levels of typhus fever this year," the city said in a statement about the more than 40 reported cases in southern California over the last several months.
The number of cases of the flea-borne disease in this time frame qualifies as an “outbreak,” according to Los Angeles County health officials.
Los Angeles County has warned residents to be on the lookout for fleas from domestic and wild animals, as they can carry the disease.
Symptoms of typhus include fever, chills, body aches, muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and a rash all over the body.
Typhus is typically transferred through flea bites – when its faeces makes its way into human bloodstreams as people scratch or rub their eyes or open wounds like cuts and scrapes.
The disease cannot be transferred among humans.
Most of the 20 cases in Pasadena were reported in the last two months and health officials told NBC News that the number for such a time period would normally be around five.
At least 12 cases have been reported this year in Long Beach, California – double that city’s normal number of reported cases.
A county health official also told NBC News: "All of the cases have a history of living or working in the downtown Los Angeles area”.
It has prompted some to attribute the increase in cases to the worsening conditions for the city’s homeless population in the downtown area.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office said through spokesperson Alex Comisar said it is “deploying every available resource to help control and stop this outbreak."
"The City and County have formed a dedicated task force through our Unified Homelessness Response Center to keep Angelenos safe, and ensure everyone gets the treatment they need as quickly as possible,” the office said.
Health officials have told residents to keep their pets indoors and to use approved insect repellant.
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