NBC4 reported Monday that “sky-high” piles of rotting trash were found around Los Angeles, leading some to worry about a new typhus outbreak.
“Even the city’s most notorious trash pile, located between downtown LA’s busy Fashion and Produce districts, continues to be a magnet for rats after it was cleaned up months ago. The rodents can carry typhus-infected fleas, which can spread the disease to humans through bacteria rubbed into the eyes or cuts and scrapes on the skin, resulting in severe flu-like symptoms,” the outlet reported.
NBC4’s investigative team said it previously had informed LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office about some of the trash piles in October. The piles they referred to were cleaned up, “but conditions have worsened over the next seven months” the outlet reported. When NBC investigators reported another trash pile, it was told it could be three months before the garbage was removed.
The trash piles — and the rats attracted to them — can cause numerous health problems for the surrounding population. Dr. Jeffrey Klauser, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the University of California-Los Angeles, told the media outlet that a growing rat population could spread diseases like salmonella and even the bubonic plague.
“Trash and food waste attracts rats,” he said. “It does pose a public health risk.”
NBC 4 reported that New York City and Washington, D.C. are handling their rat problems. D.C. is apparently experimenting with rat bait laced with contraceptives.
Last year, Los Angeles County reported a record number of typhus cases — 124. Between 2013 and 2017, LA County reported an average of 60 cases per year, which NBC4 said was double the number of the previous five years. Typhus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is spread through contact with infected flea feces (one may not know they have had such contact). Symptoms of typhus include fevers and chills, muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, cough, and a rash. Severe cases, left untreated, can cause liver, kidney, heart, lung, and brain damage.
NBC’s investigative team discovered typhus-infected fleas “on animals waiting to be adopted at the North Central Animal Shelter. The outlet has also posted drone footage of the “most notorious trash pile,” which stretches nearly a block between LA’s fashion and produce districts.