What Protects Against Fleas That Spread Typhus?

In recent times, fleas that carry bacteria that cause typhus have been found in some communities in Southern California. As a result, protecting against these types of fleas has become imperative. Two primary strategies are involved in protecting against typhus-carrying fleas. First, tactics exist to repel these fleas from making contact with humans and pets. Second, there also are tactics designed to kill fleas to prevent them from spreading typhus-causing bacteria.

Overview of Typhus

Typhus actually refers to a group of infectious diseases. One specific type of typhus has been identified in some communities in Southern California. This is known as murine typhus. Murine typhus is spread by Rickettsia typhi via fleas.

There exists no vaccine to protect against murine typhus. If a person contracts murine typhus, it can be treated effectively with one of two antibiotics:

  • Doxycycline
  • Chloramphenicol

Ideally, treatment for typhus commences as soon as possible after infection. Although a majority of people recover from murine typhus without antibiotics, the recommended course of treatment remains seeking medical assistance and to take an appropriate antibiotic.

How Typhus Is Spread

There exists a bit of confusion about how typhus technically spreads from fleas to humans. The vast majority of people believe that when a flea bites, bacteria from a flea’s mouth that can cause typhus passes into the bloodstream. In fact, the manner in which bacteria capable of causing typhus infects a person is a bit more complicated.

It is true that a person can contract typhus by a flea bite. However, the bacterial infection is not conveyed directly via such a bite. Rather, when a flea bites, insect excretes feces at the same time. As a result, when a person is bitten by a flea, a tiny amount of flea feces ends up on a person’s skin.

The flea feces can contain bacteria that causes typhus. These bacteria can enter a person’s body if a person touches the spot on the skin where the feces are present. Typhus-causing bacteria actually enter into the body if a person touches the nose, lips, eyes, cut or scrape after brushing against flea feces on the skin. 

The type of animals that are most likely to contribute to typhus in Southern California are:

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Opossums

Symptoms of typhus include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Body ache
  • Rash (on the cheek, back, arms, legs)

Products That Protect Against Typhus-Causing Fleas

A primary way you can kill fleas that potentially carry typhus-causing bacteria is to use an EPA-approved insect repellant that contains DEET. DEET is the abbreviation for diethyltoluamide.

A commercial product containing DEET can be applied to a person’s skin or clothing. This type of product repels an array of different types of insects, including:

  • Fleas
  • Mosquitoes
  • Ticks
  • Chiggers
  • Other biting insects

Another preventative to consider using if you have pets is flea repellant products available on the market today. These include flea collars.

Killing Fleas

The best way to kill fleas is to attack them when they are at the egg or larval stages. If fleas have matured and have become airborne predators, killing them becomes more of a challenge.

If you are able to do so, commercially available insecticides exist that give you the ability to kill fleas at the egg or larval state. These products need to be used with care as they can present a danger to humans and pets alike. Depending on the product used, people and pets need to plan on being away from a residence for at least 24 hours after a flea killing commercial insecticide product is applied.

If you believe you have major issues with fleas in your home, you need to seriously consider engaging the services of a professional exterminator. An exterminator has the treatments and equipment necessary to attack, kill, and eliminate fleas no matter their stage of development. When professional treatment to eradicate fleas is sought, people and pets will need to be out of the premises for a specific period of time.

Fleas may seem small and insignificant. Nonetheless, they can be capable of spreading harmful diseases to humans and animals alike, including pets. As has been discussed, among those diseases in Southern California in recent times is typhus.

As a consequence, the wisest course a person can take to prevent the spread of typhus is a truly proactive stance. In the final analysis, the surest tactic is one that involves the thorough eradication of eggs, larvae, and adult fleas.