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Overview of Typhus, Typhoid Fever, Tuberculosis and Plague

Updated on August 22, 2020
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After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

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Disease Rampant on CA Streets

In Los Angeles (there are 39,000 estimated homeless), and in San Francisco there are 8,011 living in shelters, with 880,00 people sleeping on the streets, sometimes in tents, in cars or even just on the sidewalk. This is a problem that has evolved over time with little effective intervention by the government. There has been a large amount of money spent, but officials are far from solving the problem.

Some of the problems include urine, feces and used needles on the street, along with rats. The rats are a problem because they often have fleas that carry diseases. In addition, cats and feral cats are abundant. Animals of any kind can prey on the rats who may be infected with the plague or they may have plague-infected fleas.

This article is not to blame the homeless for their problems. This article is to talk about some dangerous diseases that have appeared due to the overcrowding on the streets.

Homeless Cat

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Typhus

Typhus killed 17,000 Spanish soldiers in 1489. Typhus (typhus fever) is actually three types of infectious diseases that include: epidemic typhus (due to Rickettsia prowazekii) spread by body lice and is rare in U.S. Scrub typhus (Orientia tsutsugamushi spread by chiggers) and murine typhus (Rickettsia typhi) spread by fleas, which is rarely fatal, but it is in Los Angeles.

Scrub typhus still occurs in Southeast Asia, and murine typhus happens in tropical and subtropical areas in the world. The flea-borne marine typhus is found in Los Angeles County each year, according to Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, a Los Angeles County Health official There is an increase in the number of people with marine typhus over the past couple of years in San Francisco as well.

There is no vaccine that prevents this disease, and it is caused by person-to-person contact if one person is infected with body lice. The fleas, ticks, or lice get into the bloodstream., which causes the illness. Symptoms typically begin at two weeks after exposure and include sudden onset of a high fever, rash, nausea, vomiting and flu-like symptoms. The antibiotic doxycycline treats epidemic typhus.

Trash pickup and rodent control are essential to prevent this disease. Pet owners are also encouraged to use flea control. There were approximately 60 cases annually in the past, and now the number has risen to 1,000 cases since 2017. Untreated cases can be fatal, especially for people over the age of 60.

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever outbreaks are caused by salmonella typhi. This disease is not the same thing as typhus. Recently, an LA police officer and two more from his workplace were diagnosed with this disease. This acute illness is caused by bacteria that is found in water or food of human carriers, then it is spread to other people. It is found in the liver, bone marrow, and the spleen as it is carried by white blood cells, which multiply and reenter the bloodstream. After approximately two weeks they can be found in the stool and urine.

Symptoms of this disease include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • High fever
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Generalized aches and pains
  • Abdominal pain

Antibiotics are given to treat the Salmonella bacteria. The fertility rate is 20% without antibiotics. Antibiotics will limit the disease to a 7-10 day period, but there is a 1-2% death rate. About 3%-5% of people become chronically ill and are on antibiotics for their lifetime, while others must have their gallbladder removed.

Mary Mallon was known as “Typhoid Mary”. She was an asymptomatic carrier of this disease, who was born in Cookstown, Ireland in 1869. As a cook for affluent families, she is believed to have infected 51 people and 3 died. Authorities forcibly isolated for three decades of her life.

Typhoid Fever

Hepatitis A, B and C

Hepatitis A is also a problem throughout California. A state of emergency was called under Governor Jerry Brown. Hepatitis A rose in huge numbers between 2016-2018 in the homeless population. There is a vaccine available for Hepatitis A, which would help limit any outbreak. There is no specific treatment for this disease, so only symptoms warrant medical treatment.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sudden nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Intense itching

Hepatitis C is spread from a person who is infected to another person through needles, syringes or other items to inject drugs. The symptoms for this disease are similar to Hepatitis A. Chronic hepatitis B is also a problem in CA, and unfortunately, it may spread.

Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic. It attacks the liver and can cause liver cancer. Acute infection often leads to chronic infection. Hepatitis C is an acute infection that attacks the liver. There is no vaccine for this Hepatitis, but there are treatments. A person is considered cured if there is no virus left in their blood.

Kassy Dillon on San Francisco Homeless Crisis and Opioid Epidemic

Bubonic Plague

Physicians have warned that bubonic plague will occur if conditions are not cleaned up in Los Angeles. Bubonic plague is a curse from the middle ages that killed thousands. Worldwide typhoid fever has affected more than 21 million people annually over many years, with about 200,000 people dying from the disease annually. Less than 400 cases have been reported in the U.S. annually in recent years. Fears concerning bubonic plague in CA have grown due to the uptick in typhus cases.

Body Louse

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Other Illness

There has been an 88% increase of syphilis in San Francisco between 2017-2018. Measles has also been seen, but a well-tested vaccine can prevent this virus. There are reported cases of illness caused by staph and E coli that is found in food.

Officials are concerned about Ebola or Marburg virus disease outbreaks, as there is an outbreak in the Congo, so international travelers could potentially infect a homeless person, and these diseases can spread easily through a crowd of homeless people.

In Summary

Unsanitary conditions and rats are certainly a concern for the homeless areas in CA. Additional temporary housing, portable toilets, food and treatment for diseases, alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental illness may help. Government officials have to change the dynamics in a dramatic fashion if they want to get ahead of various disease epidemic possibilities.

Share any ideas in the comments if you have an idea of ways to treat this growing problem.

Diseases in Homeless Population

What do you think should be done about the growing number of diseases in California?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby

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