Both Southern California as well as parts of Texas are two regions in the United States that have recently reported an outbreak of typhus. It is quite likely that opossums are to blame for the spread of the disease. The disease that the opossums are spreading is more specifically known as Murine typhus, which is a very serious affliction that requires hospitalization if left untreated.
Murine typhus is an infection that is spread by fleas. The disease can spread either through flea feces or flea bites. Cases of murine typhus are being reported in regions that are known for their heavy opossum population. Symptoms include a high fever, muscle weakness, nausea and fatigue. Forty six cases of murine typhus were reported in LA county back in 2014.
Opossums carry a whole lot of fleas around with them. In fact opossums have been found to have well over a thousand fleas feeding on them at one time. As you can guess, this heavy flea-coat is the reason why so many opossums are infected with the disease. Once a neighborhood opossum is infected, then it is a matter of time before the neighborhood pets, like dogs and cats, are also infected. Luckily, murine typhus is nearly benign for dogs and cats, but for humans living with a pet that is carrying murine typhus is, understandably quite dangerous. This is because after your dog or cat becomes infected, other fleas may be starting to infest their fur coats. This is bad since murine typhus can be spread from dogs to fleas just as easily as vice verse. Once any fleas in your home contract murine typhus, then it is only a matter of a very short time before you also come down with the disease. So be sure to take your pets in for regular exams since they show no symptoms of the disease once they are infected.
Have you ever know a person who had contracted murine typhus?