Flea-borne typhus, formerly called murine typhus, is a bacterial disease found primarily in the fleas that live on animals such as opossums, cats, raccoons and skunks and is transmitted by an infective flea bite. It is caused by the bacteria, Rickettsia typhi, and Rickettsia felis, found in infected fleas and their feces. Both types of rickettsiae are transmitted transovarially (the female fleas transmit the disease to their offspring).
2006-2018 Flea-Borne Typhus Human Infection Map
For important information regarding how to protect yourself and your pets from flea-borne typhus, please download these PDF documents.
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|Typhus Vet card||Flea Identification Key
Pictoral Key to Some Common Fleas of Southern California
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Once a person is infected, flea-borne typhus normally has an incubation period of 6-14 days before symptoms appear. Typical symptoms consist of:
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.
Correct diagnosis and treatment with the proper antibiotic (doxycycline) can resolve patient discomfort quickly.
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. Both cats and dogs can be hosts for the fleas that carry flea-borne typhus. Do not feed wildlife or leave pet food out overnight. Residents are urged to apply flea control products to any animals that they are feeding regularly including free-roaming and/or neighborhood cats to prevent flea infestations.
Fleas defecate as they feed. Infection occurs when flea feces containing the bacteria are scratched into the bite site, other wound, inhaled, eaten, or transferred to the eye (conjunctiva).
Even though cats, dogs, raccoons, or opossums may be infected, they do not show obvious symptoms. Cats, dogs, opossums, skunks, and raccoons serve as hosts for the fleas and facilitate their growth and development. Fleas do not survive without the presence of a host animal. It is not known if cats, dogs, raccoons, or skunks are reservoir hosts for the bacteria. Opossums have been found infected with the bacteria.
This disease is found in residential communities. The disease is transmitted by the common cat flea which can be found on:
Controlling fleas is the best way to prevent transmission of flea-borne typhus. Pet owners should keep their pets up-to-date on a flea control program.
Any animal associated with human homes such as cats, dogs, raccoons, skunks, and opossums, are responsible for bringing infected fleas into contact with the human population. The animal may or may not become infected. Cats, dogs, opossums, skunks, and raccoons serve as hosts for the fleas and facilitate their growth and development. Fleas do not survive without the presence of a host animal. It is not known if cats, dogs, raccoons, or skunks are reservoir hosts for the bacteria. Opossums have been found infected with the bacteria.
The bacteria that causes flea-borne typhus has been found in fleas from all areas in Orange County.
More information is available from:
Centers for Disease Control,
California Department of Public Health
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Orange County Health Care Agency
Orange County Health Care Agency, Animal Care Services
Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District
13001 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92843