GCHD continues to see increase in reported murine typhus cases
Galveston County Health District (GCHD) continues to see an increase in the number of murine typhus cases, with 18 reported to date. Murine typhus is a flea-borne illness.
“Rats and stray animals come into your yard, bringing with them infected fleas,” said Randy Valcin, GCHD director of epidemiology and public health preparedness. “When you let your pets outside, those fleas then get on your cats and dogs, which can bring them inside the home.”
People become infected when they come in contact with the infected flea feces through open wounds, scratching and even breathing in the infected feces, Valcin said. Reports of the illness are on the rise with 17 cases in 2017, two in 2016, eight in 2015 and one in 2014 for Galveston County.
“I believe we are seeing an increase in reported cases because physicians now know what symptoms to look for,” Valcin said. “Typhus has been around for a number of years, but physicians are testing more and we’re seeing those results.”
Symptoms usually begin seven-14 days following exposure. Patients typically present with fever and headache or fever and rash. Symptoms also include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, rash and coughing. When treated early, patients typically experience a less severe illness and shorter recovery time.
Because typhus is flea-borne, Valcin said people should avoid contact with infected fleas. Keep fleas off pets with a veterinarian-approved flea control product for cats and dogs. Remove brush, rock piles, junk and cluttered firewood.
“Also, treat your yard for fleas,” Valcin said. “Do not leave food outdoors. This will help keep rodents and stray animals, which may be carrying infected fleas, away from your home.”