Skid Row rat fleas test positive for dangerous disease in Los Angeles

Jano le Roux

Skid Row is fueling the spread of a terrible disease called Murine Typhus. The CDC reported typical symptoms that include loss of appetite accompanied by fever and chills, muscle pain, and vomiting.

Ceres Avenue downtown is lined by wholesale fish wholesalers, food warehouses, and homeless encampments, providing ideal circumstances for rats.

Uneaten food is thrown on the street — a salad plate was recently splashed on the tarmac — and abandoned clothing accumulates only to be spun into rat nests.
Theodore Hayes CC BY-SA 4.0

Experts believe that the rats are contributing to the rising incidence of typhus illnesses on skid row and elsewhere in the area. Fleas, which are transmitted by rodents, opossums, and pets, spread the illness.

The typhus outbreak in Los Angeles County, which started in the summer of 2018, has grown to 92 cases, with 20 in Pasadena and a potential 18 in Long Beach, where five were still being investigated by the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the Los Angeles County Health Department, the average number of typhus cases per year in the county is 60, which has risen in recent years.

Skid row in downtown Los Angeles, which spans 54 square blocks and is home to more than 4,000 homeless people, was recently designated a “typhus zone.” by city authorities.

Garcetti described the incident as “disgusting and it’s unacceptable.”

Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn of Los Angeles County are expected to introduce a motion on Tuesday that would establish the Housing for Public Health program, a coordinated effort to clean, house, and educate the homeless on skid row in order to reduce the spread of typhus and other diseases.

Last Monday, Barger and Hahn proposed a resolution to “seek flea collar donations that can be distributed to homeless individuals that have pets.”

“illegally dumping, food being discarded, accumulation of blankets and pillows, and human waste” according to Lopez of the Central City East Association, are all contributing to “Third World conditions.”

The atmosphere outside the Midnight Mission, which feeds three meals a day to up to 1,000 people, can be hectic.

“If you walk out of our building, you’re faced with the threat of assault, drug dealing, and trash everywhere,” Georgia Berkovich, the nonprofit’s director of public relations, said.

The filth and inhumanity on the streets, according to Jerry Jones, public policy director of the Inner City Law Center, is “shocking” and “surreal.”

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