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Prevent Flea-Borne Typhus

Long Beach Public Health Officials Issue Recommendations to Prevent Flea-Borne Typhus

The City of Long Beach Health Department is alerting the public about flea-borne typhus, a disease transmitted to humans by fleas. In 2012 to date, eleven (11) cases of flea-borne typhus have been reported among Long Beach residents (compared to nine reported for all of 2011). Investigation of cases found an exposure to fleas that may have been carried by opossums, cats, or rodents seen around their homes. Prior to 2006, flea-borne typhus was not known to be present in the City of Long Beach.

Flea-borne typhus (murine typhus) is a disease spread by fleas living on rodents (rats, mice), opossums, cats, and raccoons. People get the disease through the bites of infected fleas. Flea-borne typhus is not spread from person to person. The most common symptoms of flea-borne typhus are high fevers, severe headaches, body aches and a rash. The disease is rarely fatal, but people can become sick enough to be hospitalized.

Public Health Officials will continue to monitor and test for evidence of the disease in areas throughout the City. Health Department staff will be distributing informational flyers in areas where flea-borne typhus has been reported. This information can also be found on the Health Departmentís website at Area veterinarians are being issued a letter requesting they educate pet owners on the importance of flea control in preventing this disease. The Health Department has also issued letters to area health care providers providing guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of flea-borne typhus.

The Health Department urges residents to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbors by following a few simple guidelines:

1. Consult your veterinarian regarding safe flea control medications for your pets;

2. Keep your home and yard in good repair by removing overgrown vegetation and debris where rodents, opossums, and feral (wild) cats may hide. Keep screens on crawl space covers and vents in good repair.

3. Avoid contact with animals that carry fleas. Do not attempt to capture and relocate these animals to other areas.

4. Eliminate all food and water sources around your home, including open trash cans, fallen fruit around the yard, pet food, and bird feeders;

5. When cleaning nesting areas of rats and opossums, spray area with disinfectant, and wear protective clothing and equipment (i.e., mask, goggles, gloves);

6. When treating your yard or animal harborage areas with insecticides, only use products labeled for flea control and follow all directions carefully;

7. Contact the Cityís Animal Care Services by email at, if you have questions about managing opossums and stray or feral cats on your property. More information on urban wildlife is available online at:

8. Report dead opossums or cats to Animal Care Services for removal by calling (562) 570-PETS (7387).

For more information about fleaborne typhus, please contact the Health Departmentís Epidemiology Program at (562) 570-4302. Information is also available online at