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Typhus threat: Health officials set cat traps at two Santa Ana schools

The Orange County Vector Control District has reported a case of flea-borne typhus in Santa Ana. This image is from the district's warning flyer that was distributed to residents.
The Orange County Vector Control District has reported a case of flea-borne typhus in Santa Ana. This image is from the district's warning flyer that was distributed to residents. Photo via NBC LA

Orange County Vector Control is attempting to capture cats on the campuses of two Santa Ana schools on Tuesday in an effort to reduce the flea population following a case of typhus that sent a girl to the hospital last month.

Animal control specialists are trying to trap the feral cats near Frances E. Willard Intermediate School and El Sol Science and Arts Academy, notes NBC LA. City spokesman Jose Gonzalez said the child, who has since recovered, had no connection with any local schools, but was living nearby, CBS LA reports.

Typhus infections occur when a person is bitten by fleas or lice carrying the bacteria Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia prowazekii.

Of the two types of typhus infections -- murine typhus and endemic typhus -- endemic typhus is the deadlier, but is less common in the U.S. Southern California has seen a rise of murine typhus in recent years, killing about 2% of untreated patients, according to NBC LA.

According to NIH, typhus is characterized by a very high fevers of 105 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit, which may last as long as two weeks:

Other symptoms include: abdominal pain, backache, diarrhea, and a dull, red rash that begins in the middle of the body and spreads, according to NIH. Sufferers may experience a hacking, dry cough, headache, joint and muscle pain, nausea and vomiting

The disease can be fatal, but it is usually treatable with antibiotics. It can be detected through a blood test which might show, among other symptoms, a high level of typhus antibodies, low levels of sodium and albumin in the blood, or evidence of problems in the kidneys or liver. In some cases, endemic typhus can cause stupor or foggy thinking. 

The feral cats will be sedated and euthanized if caught, said Gonzalez, reports CBS LA. 

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