Santa Ana, located in Orange County, California, is experiencing a typhus outbreak and the feral cats in the area are getting caught in the middle of a bad situation that's not their fault.
Officials set six traps at Frances E. Willard Intermediate School on the 1300 block of North Ross Street. They've also set traps at El Sol Science and Arts Academy. This is being done in an effort to catch feral cats after a child in the area contracted typhus last month and had to be hospitalized. The victim has since recovered. Due to privacy laws, all that's known about the victim is the disease was contracted in the Broadway-Washington Avenue area of Santa Ana.
Now Vector Control officials have set traps for feral cats, possums and other small animals that may carry the disease via fleas. They have said any animals trapped will be tested and euthanized. Officials have already handed out information to the public on the illness and how to administer flea products to prevent a flea infestation.
Endemic and murine typhus are both caused by a bacteria found in infected fleas and their feces.
The problem is this isn't going to solve the problem. For one thing, it's doubtful these feral cats are coming close enough to the population to allow the fleas to jump from the cat onto a human or for the flea feces containing Rickettsia typhi, and Rickettsia felis to be in contact with the human. I can already tell this is going to be a really bad year for flea infestations. And what are they going to do about all the dogs who wander loose, as well as the wildlife?
This isn't a realistic way to handle the problem. For one thing, if these feral cats are removed, more will come to take their place. The fleas would just jump on the new "host." There are probably stray dogs running loose in Santa Ana. There seem to be as many stray dogs these days as there are stray cats. My guess is more fleas can live on a large dog than a small cat. Yet nothing is being said about trapping and euthanizing the dogs.
The best preventative would be to treat the property in Santa Ana with products recommended to kill fleas that won't be harmful to pets. Treat the property and treat the pets.
Symptoms of typhus include high fever, headache, chills, body aches and a rash. These begin between a week and two weeks after exposure to an infected flea.
Alley Cat Allies, the only national organization dedicated solely to the protection of feral cats, has called out the Vector control officials in an effort to stop the trapping (the "vector" is the flea or lice) .
Several of the traps have been sabotaged by people throwing objects into them to make them spring shut. One trap did catch a possum.
Information on contacting Orange County Vector Control, as well as information on typhus can be found at www.ocvcd.org/typhus.php
Note: Flea-borne typhus is referred to as endemic typhus or murine typhus. It is transmitted by fleas. It is caused by the bacteria, Rickettsia typhi, and Rickettsia felis, which is in infected fleas and their feces.