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Typhus infections reported in Burbank, elsewhere in Valley

August 24, 2012 |  7:47 am

The Burbank Animal Shelter is advising people to take precautions against typhus fever amid reports the flea-borne disease had infected several people in the city and San Fernando Valley.

At least one human infection had been confirmed so far this year in Burbank, and two have been verified in the San Fernando Valley, the Burbank Leader reported. An additional three cases are under investigation, according to public health officials.

In Los Angeles County, 15 cases of typhus have been confirmed so far this year, and an additional 17 were still under investigation, according to Jonathan Fielding, the county’s director of public health. The latest infections are part of a trend in which county officials have noticed a slight increase in flea-borne typhus cases over the past five to six years.

“We don’t really know exactly why this is happening,” Fielding said.

Part of the reason could be the result of his department’s efforts to train doctors on how to better identify and diagnose the disease, he added. Last year, 38 cases of typhus were reported in Los Angeles County, Fielding said.

Two other cases of the disease, which is not directly spread by humans, were confirmed in Burbank in 2011, according to the animal shelter. Patients typically experience fever, headaches, a rash on their chest, sides and back, muscle aches and chills six to 14 days after infection.

Burbank resident Mike Alley is one the more recent infection cases. He said he and his neighbor, who was recently released from local hospital, contracted the disease from fleas in their neighborhood on the 700 block of North Screenland Drive.

The disease put the 70-year-old insurance broker in the hospital for three weeks, but he said it took doctors awhile to discover he had been infected with Endemic Typhus. “Nobody ever thought it was typhus,” Alley said. He said he is certain he caught the disease in November from a flea, which likely latched on to one of his four cats.

Earlier this year, Alley said public health officials visited his neighborhood, handed out fliers about typhus and obtained his information to discuss his bout with the disease. Alley said he is one of four residents on Sceenland Drive who have contracted the disease.

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--Veronica Rocha, Times Community News

Follow Veronica on Google+ and Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA

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