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‘Who Gets Typhus?’ ~ Flea-Borne Typhus Spreads to City Hall East

Courtesy of Michael J Fromholtz.

[dropcap size=big]'I[/dropcap] thought I was going to die,” Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Liz Greenwood told NBC4, after contracting typhus in November 2018 she says from working at City Hall in downtown Los Angeles. "Who gets typhus? It's a medieval disease that's caused by trash."

The L.A. City Hall official was one of the 105 cases of flea-borne typhus that the Los Angeles County department of health said it documented last year, including 17 cases associated with the downtown L.A. outbreak. Those numbers do not include Long Beach and Pasadena.

It is virtually impossible to say with certainty that Greenwood contracted the disease from working inside the James K. Hahn City Hall East building on Main Street, a county health official said.

But that hasn’t deterred public employees working there from complaining about long-standing homeless encampments next-door. Since the outbreak was first reported in October, L.A. County public health officials have said typhus is hitting the homeless population.

Responding to complaints from other city workers fearful of getting typhus, the city fumigated the Los Angeles Police Department’s Central Division office, as well as parts of LAPD’s main headquarters, NBC4 said. The deputy city attorney reportedly said she will not go back to work at City Hall East until they also fumigate that building, too.

RELATED: This Downtown Street Is Covered in Piles of Rat-Infested Trash ~ Neglect By L.A. Officials Apparent During Typhus Outbreak

Ceres Avenue in downtown before the city cleaned it up last October. GIF by Philip Iglauer

[dropcap size=big]D[/dropcap]owntown streets are covered in piles of trash where thousands of encampments of homeless people also eke out their daily lives. Fleas often live on rats, which congregate in the many heaps of trash that are visible all over downtown. The trash could be a breeding ground for flea-borne typhus.

One particular shocking example was a stretch of Cere Avenue between 7th and 8th. Rats could be clearly seen squirming amongst the piles of human waste, rotten food, and other trash. It was red-flag scenario that the city did eventually respond to and cleaned up.

As far as the actual danger of contracting flea-borne typhus to the general public, L.A. County Public Health has recommended people avoid direct contact with rats, possums, and feral cats.

A notice of "Major Cleaning" in October, 2018 on Ceres Avenue. Photo by Philip Iglauer.

Pets, such as dogs and cats that are allowed to spend time outdoors should be protected from fleas with veterinarian-approved animal flea control products, such as flea collars or spot-ons, to prevent them from coming into contact infected fleas, which they could then bring inside the home.

After the outbreak was widely reported last October, Mayor Eric Garcetti promised to clean up piles of garbage throughout the city to combat the typhus epidemic. Communicable diseases such as the current typhus outbreak impact all of us, even City Hall attorneys.

The mayor allocated millions of dollars to increase clean-ups of streets in downtown L.A. including the Skid Row area dubbed by some media outlets as "the typhus zone."  But Clean-ups by the Department of Sanitation also impact the people living on the streets in downtown L.A. with no place else to go.

RELATED:  'Are You Ready For Garcetti' ~ L.A. Mayor Not Running for President After All

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