LONG BEACH - Ten cases of fleaborne typhus have been reported among Long Beach residents since July, an increase over previous years, according to department spokesman Michael Johnson.

Health officials say that keeping pet animals' flea problems in check is the best strategy in preventing the spread of typhus, a flu-like illness.

Johnson said pets may be exposed to fleas that may have been carried by opossums or rodents.
Prior to 2006, fleaborne typhus was not known to be present in Long Beach, but it is now known to occur throughout the Southland.

People get the disease through the bites of infected fleas. The illness is not spread from person to person.

The most common symptoms of fleaborne typhus are high fevers - reaching up to 104 degrees - severe headaches, body aches and a rash, Johnson said.

The disease is rarely fatal, but it might cause hospitalization. Health Officials will continue to monitor and test for evidence of the disease.

Health Department staff will be distributing informational door hangers in areas where fleaborne typhus has been reported. This information is also available by visitingwww.longbeach.gov/health and clicking on "Animal Care Services." Area veterinarians are being issued a letter requesting that they educate pet owners on the importance of flea control in preventing this disease.

The Health Department has also issued letters to area health care providers providing guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of fleaborne typhus.