Tarrant County Public Health has issued a health alert to area health care providers in response to a rise in local flea-borne typhus cases. It asks them to consider a diagnosis for people with fever and at least one other symptom of the disease.Tarrant County Public Health has reported 22 cases so far this year, compared to six cases in 2016, four in 2015 and three in 2014.Flea-borne typhus, also known as murine typhus, is a bacterial infection. It most commonly occurs when infected flea feces is scratched into the site of a flea bite or other break in the skin. Inhalation and mucous membrane contact with contaminated, dried flea feces are less common ways to contract the disease. Fleas are infected when they bite animals, such as rodents, opossums and cats. Those vectors can maintain and transmit the bacteria.Early symptoms of flea-borne typhus develop within 14 days of contact with infected fleas. Symptoms include headache, fever, nausea and body aches. Five or six days after initial symptoms begin, a patient may experience a rash that starts on the trunk of the body and spreads to the arms and legs.People experiencing symptoms should consult with a health care provider to be appropriately tested and treated for the disease. Flea-borne typhus is easily treated with certain antibiotics. Patients do not normally acquire it again after they recover.Tarrant County Public Health encourages all residents to guard against contracting flea-borne typhus.
Tips to Protect Yourself
- Keep yards clean and clutter-free so rodents, opossums and stray cats cannot live in the area.
- Do not leave pet food out at night. It attracts other animals.
- Prevent rodents from living inside a home. They carry fleas.
- Treat pets regularly for fleas with a veterinarian-approved flea control product.
- Use a commercial flea control product before beginning rodent control in a house or yard. Fleas will search for new hosts when rodents die.
- Wear gloves and insect repellent when handling sick or dead animals.
- Use insect repellent when hiking, hunting, camping or engaging in outdoor activities.