Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

There have been more human cases of flea-borne typhus detected in Orange County. The key to preventing this disease is to prevent humans from coming into contact with fleas. Pets must be treated at regular intervals with appropriate flea control products.



Flea-borne typhus, formerly called murine typhus, is a bacterial disease found primarily in the fleas that live on animals such as cats, dogs, opossums, rats, and other backyard wildlife and is transmitted by fleas. Flea-borne typhus is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia typhi and Rickettsia felis, present in fleas and flea feces.

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Fleas defecate as they feed. Infection occurs when flea feces containing the bacteria are scratched into the bite site, other wounds, inhaled, eaten, or transferred to the eye (conjunctiva).

Even though cats, dogs, opossums, rats, and backyard wildlife may be infected, they do not show obvious symptoms. These animals are infested with fleas year-round in Orange County. Fleas do not survive without the presence of a host animal. Pet animals should be kept on flea-control medication year-round.

Flea-borne typhus is transmitted by fleas found on:

  • Feral and domestic cats
  • Dogs
  • Opossums
  • Rats
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Squirrels
  • Rabbits
  • Any mammal that infested with fleas.

How Will I Know If My Pet Has Fleas?

Fleas found on pets can be infected with flea-borne typhus. Fleas are active all year in Orange County. Flea control is the best way to prevent exposure to flea-borne typhus. 

Even indoor only animals can become infested with fleas.  Regularly inspect pets and pet bedding for fleas. The presence of flea feces in pet fur, called “flea dirt”, may be the first sign of a flea infestation. Pet owners should keep pets up-to-date on a flea control and heartworm preventative program.

Pets and backyard wildlife can be infested with fleas that transmit flea-borne typhus to humans. The animals may or may not become infected. Pets and backyard wildlife are hosts for fleas.  Fleas do not survive without the presence of a host animal. 

Typhus Symptoms 

What Are The Symptoms?

Once a person is infected, flea-borne typhus normally has an incubation period of 6-14 days before symptoms appear. Typical symptoms consist of:

  • Severe headache
  • Sustained high fever (104° F) for many days
  • Body aches
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Avoidance of light
  • A rash on the chest, back, arms and/or legs appears in approximately 50% of patients.

Flea-borne typhus shares symptoms with other flu-like diseases and can be incorrectly diagnosed if a specific blood test is not performed. Correct diagnosis and treatment with the proper antibiotic (doxycycline) can resolve patient discomfort quickly.

How Is The Disease Treated?

Correct diagnosis and treatment with the proper antibiotic (doxycycline) can resolve patient discomfort quickly.

Learn more about ways to protect you and your pet here.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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