Are you aware of the reports of Typhus outbreaks in Los Angeles? A recent Los Angeles Times article Rats at the Police Station, Filth on L.A. Streets — Scenes from the Collapse of a City That’s Lost Control details this news flash having great importance to both human and animal health.
Dr. Katy Nelson and I were slightly ahead of the times in November 2018, when we covered earlier reports of Los Angeles seeing cases of Typhus on the ABC7 WJLA program The Pet Show with Dr. Katy. See What You Need to Know to Protect your Pet from Typhus.
Besides hearing Dr. Nelson and I discuss the topic via the above link, I want to share some pertinent information on Typhus in this article.
What is typhus?
Typhus a bacteria that can be harbored by fleas. Typhus is a type of bacteria called Rickettsia Typhi (“R. Typhi”) which is the same genus as the causative agent of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Rickettsia Rickettsi), a tick-borne disease that many owners commonly seen in pets (dogs more than cats) living in tick-dense environments.
How is typhus transmitted?
Typhus is transmitted via the bite of an infected flea or from being exposed to flea feces (“flea dirt”). In Los Angeles County, rats, cats, and opossums are the animals currently known to carry R. Typhi.
When fleas bite a dog, cat, or person to attain a blood meal they leave their feces on the skin surface. If the flea bite or the area contaminated by flea feces is scratched then the skin becomes traumatized and R. Typhi can enter the bloodstream.
Can your pet get sick from typhus and what are the clinical signs?
Up to this point, R.Typhi is not known to cause disease in dogs and cats. Yet, your cat or dog’s potential to not be sickened by R. Typhi is not 100% known, so it's still best that your pet is not exposed through the bite of an infected flea or flea feces.
Clinical signs in humans include high fever, chills, headache, rash, and others.
Can my pet be tested for typhus?
Yes, R. Typhi can be detected via blood testing.
Yet, testing your pet for R. Typhi may prove challenging, as other Rickettsia bacteria, but not R. Typhi, can be tested by common veterinary diagnostic laboratories (at the time of this article’s publishing).
Can typhus be treated/can my pet receive treatment for typhus?
Yes, typhus can be treated with antibiotic therapy like Doxycycline or Ciprofloxacin.
If you are concerned about your pet being exposed to typhus and are considering treatment with antibiotics make sure to consult with your veterinarian to see if examination and diagnostic testing (blood/urine/fecal testing, x-rays, ultrasound, etc.) are needed to get the best assessment of your pet’s current state of health and potential need for treatment.
How can people reduce their potential of getting sick from Typhus?
People can reduce their potential exposure to typhus by having their pets regularly treated with veterinary prescribed flea control.
Additionally, maintaining good sanitary habits by regularly grooming your pet, washing pet bedding, vacuuming one's home environment, and keeping wildlife and stray animals away from the home and yard. Have your cats be indoor cats instead of indoor/outdoor.
Fortunately, cat and dog ownership does not equate with an increased incidence of infection with R. Typhi as per a 2002 scientific study, so you don’t have to get rid of your pet. You just need practice responsible pet ownership and good household sanitary habits.
To learn more about Typhus please visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Epidemic Typhus and keep up with the latest information via the County of Los Angeles Public Health’s Flea-Borne (Endemic) Typhus.
I hope you and your pet stay free from Typhus by educating yourself and implementing appropriate sanitary measures. Feel free to contribute your perspective in the Comments section.
Dr. Patrick Mahaney
Please leave your constructive perspective in the below Comments section and communicate with me and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine and life via Instagram (@PatrickMahaney), Twitter (@PatrickMahaney), and Facebook (Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets). Copyright of this article (2019) is owned by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian, Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist and Certified Veterinary Journalist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr. Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr. Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.