On Friday, KABC in Los Angeles reported that a person who lives in Santa Ana had tested positive for flea-borne typhus. Flea-borne typhus is associated with fleas who suck the blood of infected urban wildlife. The disease is spread to humans when a flea has fed on a typhus infected animal and then bites a human. It may also be spread through cuts in the skin of a person who comes into contact with feces from an infected flea.
I have seen no reports indicating the infected person is a child although health officials seem to be targeting area schools which has given some the impression that the victim may be a student. Further, I have seen no reports indicating that the source of the exposure has been confirmed. In fact, KABC reports:
Officials are not sure if the person contracted the disease in Santa Ana or another part of Southern California.
Today however, authorities seem to be under the impression that fleas from feral cats are to blame for the infection. As such, health officials are setting traps at two area schools in order to catch as many feral cats as possible. Every cat caught by the city will be killed.
It’s possible the city has more information than has been publicly released but it strikes me as odd that feral cats at two Santa Ana schools are being targeted. Does the victim attend one of these schools? Has it been determined whether the person even contracted the disease in Santa Ana? The city reports that feral cats have been sighted in the area of the schools but I presume if lookouts were posted at the schools overnight, there would be sightings of opossums, raccoons and rats too. Indeed the only animal the city has managed to trap thus far is a possum.
I hope the city is not rushing to take action here based upon appearances. It would be reassuring to see some hard science and factual data in support of the plan to kill every feral cat possible at the two Santa Ana schools. The notion that these cats could be carrying infected fleas is not enough to warrant this type of action.