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Feral Cats: Typhus Case in Manhattan Beach, Calif., Prompts County Health Warning

The Los Angeles County Health Department is warning residents about interacting with feral cats after a case of typhus was reported in Manhattan Beach.

The identity of the victim was withheld, and details about how the individual contracted the disease were not disclosed by the agency.

The Health Department advises that the best way residents can prevent the spread of the disease is to keep their pets isolated from feral cats and their fleas, a widely known carrier of Typhus.

Pets should be kept inside and current with their flea medication, officials say.

Animal owners should also spay or neuter their pets to prevent breeding with feral cats.

Madeline Bernstein, President of spcaLA, adds that homeowners should place screens over building access holes, secure external trash storage, and eliminate any outdoor food sources.

By 11:30 p.m. the Palos Verdes Patch posted, “ Typhus Reported in the South Bay ... Rancho Palos Verdes officials warn pet lovers to stay away from feral cats.”


Following are some excerpts from a case of Endemic Murine Typhus in the Mount Washington area of Los Angeles in 2011, posted on the Highland Park Patch. The victim’s name is Paul Nawrocki. Paul said he never heard of Murine Typhus until he nearly died from it.

One Sunday at the end of March 2011, Paul thought he’d come down with the flu. “By Wednesday, I was really sick,” said Paul, who remembers that he couldn’t keep anything down, even water. “I knew something was seriously wrong so I went to the doctor [on Thursday].” Paul’s wife Jill remembers that in addition to fever, chills and other flu-like symptoms, Paul “couldn’t lay down flat because he couldn’t breathe.”

“By Friday night, says Jill, Paul’s fever had spiked to 105 degrees, his blood pressure had dropped alarmingly, and his blood oxygen levels were so low he was danger of hypoxia, which can cause hallucinations, seizures, comas and even death. His liver had shut down, his stomach had shut down, and he had internal bleeding.” Less dramatically, Paul had also developed a rash on his chest. And it was the rash that finally gave Dr. Pocock the clue to the disease. Paul had Endemic Murine Typhus.

What Is Murine Typhus?

According to the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, Endemic Murine Typhus is an infectious disease caused by bacteria (either Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia felis) that is transmitted by the bites of infected fleas. Joe Ramirez, a Health Specialist with the Vector Borne Disease Surveillance Unit, said that any animal can carry infected fleas but the highest percentage is found on infected rats, opossums and feral cats.

Feline-loving Paul had started feeding a pair of wild cats that had appeared in his back yard, reported the Patch.

Sources: CBS, Patch, (2)


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