When we reported on Los Angeles in early October, the city was experiencing an outbreak of the bacterial disease typhus. At that point, 20 cases had been reported.
One month later, the number of recorded cases has risen to over 100.
The number of flea-born Typhus cases in Los Angeles has hit 107.So far this year 72 patients have been recorded by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health with a further 15 in Long Beach and 20 in Pasadena.In the 2000s there were around 20 cases recorded per year and analysts are putting the dramatic rise down to a 47 per cent increase in homelessness since 2012.One official in Long Beach told NBC News that almost half a million potential cases are ‘under investigation.’
The explosion of the homeless population is the root cause of this outbreak. Local leaders are clamoring for this epidemic to be treated as an emergency.
Estela Lopez, executive director of the Central City East Association, a business improvement district that overlaps with skid row, said she was informed by city officials that rat and flea eradication efforts, including spreading bug powder in the area, would begin in the days to come.Still, she said, “I’m not seeing the level of response that matches the emergency that this is.”
…Andy Bales, CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, which has nearly 1,400 beds for the displaced, said the city and county governments can only do so much to alleviate a homeless problem that has sparked outbreaks of Hepatitis A, typhus and gang violence over the skid row drug trade.He’s calling on the federal goverment and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help.“It’s a FEMA-like disaster and it needs to be treated as such,” he said.
Typhus can cause headaches, fevers, chills, and in more severe cases it can lead to meningitis and death. The current illness is known as “murine typhus,” as it is spread primarily through flea bites or droppings from infected rats and mice.
Those feces have bacteria called Rickettsia typhi, according to the CDC.When these infected feces are rubbed accidentally into scrapes or cuts in the skin, people become sick. In L.A. County, the health department says, typhus infects fleas found on dogs, cats, rats, and opossums. Animals carrying typhus themselves do not get sick.
In arguably related news, the Southern California housing market is beginning to slump.
Higher mortgage rates and overheated home prices hit Southern California home sales hard in September.The number of new and existing houses and condominiums sold during the month plummeted nearly 18 percent compared with September 2017, according to CoreLogic. That was the slowest September pace since 2007, when the national housing and mortgage crisis was hitting.Sales have been falling on an annual basis for much of this year, but this was the biggest annual drop for any month in almost eight years.
I suspect that the fact that our political leaders have prioritized social justice over public health is a contributing factor to this unexpected decline.