Rodent Prevention Encouraged as Cases of Flea-Borne Illness Spike
GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas – The Galveston County Health District (GCHD) encourages people to take precautions against rodents after a spike in cases of a flea-borne illness.
People get sick with murine typhus when infected flea feces are rubbed into open cuts or scrapes in the skin. Rats are the most common host for fleas infected with the bacteria that causes the illness.
So far this year, 16 cases of murine typhus have been reported to GCHD, an increase from two in 2016, eight in 2015, one in 2014 and five in 2013.
“The increase in cases of murine typhus is not unique to Galveston County, as the number of people who become ill with the disease has been trending up in the state for years,” said Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County Local Health Authority. “As with any public health threat, we want people to be aware, recognize the symptoms and learn ways to prevent it.”
Symptoms of murine typhus begin within two weeks after contact with infected fleas. Signs and symptoms may include fever and chills, body aches, muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, cough and rash. Those experiencing such symptoms should see their medical provider.
Most people recover without treatment, but some cases may be severe. When left untreated, severe illness can cause damage to organs including the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and brain. The illness is effectively treated with antibiotics.
The best way to reduce the risk of getting murine typhus is to avoid contact with infected fleas. People are encouraged to keep rodents away from homes, workplaces and recreational areas by removing food waste and clutter and not leaving pet food out overnight. People should also always wear gloves when handling sick or dead animals.
“This trend of increasing cases predates the flooding from Hurricane Harvey,” Keiser continued. “However, it’s a good reminder to wear gloves when clearing debris and to make sure debris piles do not contain food products that may attract rodents.”
More information about murine typhus is available at www.cdc.gov/typhus/murine.