All carpets at Los Angeles City Hall may need to be replaced amid a Typhus outbreak that may have infected one city employee while at work, according to a motion filed by Council President Herb Wesson on Wednesday. Wesson first became aware of a vermin issue in November 2018, contacted pest control experts and removed all his office's carpets, according to the motion. The motion reported cleanup issues and a noticeable increase in rodents in the area, which could have contributed to the outbreak.
Los Angeles county health officials first reported a Typhus outbreak in downtown Los Angeles in October 2018, the year there were 142 Typhus cases in Los Angeles County alone, according to a study by the California Department of Public Health.
Typhus is a deadly bacterial disease that is typically transmitted through fleas that have been infected by rodents. Symptoms include high fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, rashes, and in some severe cases, internal bleeding. The disease can be treated with antibiotics, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Wesson's motion asks for a report on the scope of vermin and pest control issues at City Hall, and instructs city staff to report back with a cost estimate for removing all carpets in the building and an assessment of all live plants in any city building.
Elizabeth Greenwood, an L.A. city employee, said she started experiencing flu-like symptoms and went to the doctor in November last year. A blood test revealed she had contracted Typhus.
“I was in shock. Who thinks of Typhus?” Greenwood said. “I thought of Typhus as something I read about in history books." She said she felt so sick, she thought she was going to die.
“It is terrifying to me that going from my car, up an elevator to my office, I can get this disease from a flea bite,” Greenwood said. Greenwood said she refuses to return to work until all of City Hall East is fumigated.
Typhus reaches 'epidemic levels' in parts of Los Angeles area
The official source of the outbreak is said to be fleas from domestic and wild animals.I grew up in the Los Angeles area, but in the 20th century, not the 19th.
"Infection happens when the feces from infected fleas are rubbed into cuts or scrapes in the skin or rubbed into the eyes," the county health department states on its website.
Some experts, however, say the true culprit is the inhumane conditions the county's expanding homeless population lives in. "All of the cases have a history of living or working in the downtown Los Angeles area," a county health spokeswoman said via email.
Andy Bales, the CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, which has nearly 1,400 beds for those fleeing or avoiding downtown's Dickensian streets, said, "The conditions on Skid Row are ripe for even more serious issues than this."