Flea-borne (Endemic) Typhus
Typhus refers to a group of infectious diseases that are
caused by rickettsial organisms and result in an acute
febrile illness; arthropod vectors transmit the
etiologic agents to humans. The principle diseases of
this group are epidemic (or louse-borne) typhus,
(or endemic) typhus, and scrub typhus. Flea-borne typhus (sometimes called murine typhus)is
the only one of these diseases naturally occurring in
LAC and is caused by two bacteria Rickettsia typhi
and R. felis
; both are transmitted through the
bite or contact with feces of an infected flea.
Reservoir animals are predominantly feral cats and opossums. In LAC, most
reported cases of typhus occur in residents of the
foothills of central LAC. However, the distribution has
become widespread in recent years (see below links to
maps). Symptoms include fever, severe
headache, chills, and myalgia. A fine, macular rash may
appear three to five days after onset. Occasionally,
complications such as pneumonia or hepatitis may occur.
Fatalities are uncommon, occurring in less than 1% of
cases. The disease is typically mild in young children.
Typhus infection is not vaccine preventable, but can be
treated with antibiotics.
How do you get it?
People get it after being exposed to fleas that are infected with a
rickettsial organism. The flea lives on small mammals that are infected
with the organism. When the flea bites the animal it swallows the
bacteria. The next time it bites a person, it will infect the person
with the bacteria.
How long does it take to get flea-borne typhus after I've been
exposed to an infected flea?
It takes 1 to 2 weeks to show symptoms, usually about 12 days.
Sometimes people donít remember that theyíve been
exposed to fleas.
How can I keep from getting flea-borne typhus?
Make sure your cats and dogs are free of fleas. Do not leave
food out for wild (feral) cats to eat. They carry fleas. Also,
food left out can attract other wild animals such as opossums and rats
that carry fleas. Avoid any interaction with wild cats.
Remember, you donít need to touch the cat to be exposed to a flea. They
can jump from the cat to you.
Flea-borne Typhus Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Flea-borne Typhus: Protect Yourself, Protect Your Neighbors
Flea-borne Typhus: Tips to keep your family and pets healthy
by Year, Los Angeles County 2000-2014
Angeles County: Annual Morbidity Reports
ACDC: A Manual of Department Rules, Regulations and Control
Procedures (B73) (November
- Typhus Cases, LAC Map: 2014
Typhus Cases, LAC Map: 2000-11
Typhus and Other Non-Spotted Fever Rickettsioses Case Report: CDPH
8580 (Revised 8/11)
- LAC Reported
Cases of Selected Diseases 2008-2013
- LAC Reported
Cases of Selected Diseases 2003-2008
Typhus: An Unrecognized Suburban Vectorborne Disease, Civen, Rachel,
and Ngo, Van; Clinical Infections Diseases 2008;46:913-8
Neighborhood Outbreak of Murine Typhus - South Pasadena, May 2005
(2005 Special Study)
CDPH: Flea-borne Typhus
- Click here
for the Flea-borne Typhus Brochure