Texas officials have issued a health alert warning regarding an increase in flea-borne typhus across the state of Texas.
While flea-borne typhus has primarily been seen in the South Texas, Gulf Coast areas, this year there has been an increase in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas. There are 400 cases expected to have occurred in the state for 2017.
The majority of cases occur during summer months (since flea populations flourish during this season), but there is often another peak in December and January. Any age can be affected, but a quarter of cases are between 6-15 years of age.
Flea-borne typhus is often mild, however more than 60 percent of reported cases are hospitalized, according to the DHSH. Since 2003, eight people have died from the disease. When left untreated, the illness can cause organ damage.
Early symptoms develop within 14 days of contact with infected fleas and include headache, fever, nausea, and body aches. Five or six days after the initial symptoms, a rash that starts on the trunk of the body and spreads to the arms and legs may occur.
Flea-borne typhus is a bacterial infection that occurs when infected flea feces are scratched into the site of the flea bite or another break in the skin. Inhaling or mucous membrane contact with contaminated, dried flea feces is another, less common way of contracting the disease. It usually can be treated with antibiotics.
Fleas get infected when they bite animals, such as rodents, opossums and cats, that can carry and transmit typhus.
Preventing exposure to fleas is obviously the best way to prevent your family from getting flea-borne typhus. At the Rannals Small Animal Hospital, we offer several excellent flea control products for your cat or dog. Products include Trifexis, Revolution, and Bravecto (now for dogs AND cats).
(information for this article obtained from Texas Department of State Health Services and East Texas Matters, KETK)