San Francisco’s poo and needle-filled streets have competition for the state’s most squalid, as LA’s skid row – home to over 4,000 transients, is now a “typhus zone,” according to NBC News.
Situated among wholesale fish distributors and produce warehouses, skid row spans approximately 54 square blocks in downtown Los Angeles – and has become a breeding ground for rats and other vermin, which have contributed to Los Angeles County’s typhus outbreak which began this summer.
Uneaten food is dumped on the street — a salad platter was recently splattered on the asphalt — and discarded clothing piles up only to be swirled into rats’ nests.
Those rats, experts say, are likely contributing to the growing number of typhus infections cropping up on skid row and other parts of the region. The disease is spread by fleas, which are carried by rats, opossums and pets.
“You have constant activity that serves as a breeding ground for rats,” said Estela Lopez, executive director of the Central City East Association, a business improvement district that overlaps skid row. –NBC News
Typhus infections can cause high fever, headache, chills – and in rare or untreated cases, meningitis and death. It is contracted when the “feces from infected flease are rubbed into cuts or scrapes in trhe skin or rubbed into the eyes,” according to the county health department.
“We’re deploying every available resource to help control and stop this outbreak,” said a spokesman for LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Alex Comisar. “The city and county have formed a dedicated task force … and we’re putting new funding into intensifying cleanups in the affected area so that we can keep our streets and sidewalks safe for everyone.”
So far this year, as many as 92 cases of typhus have been reported – including 20 in Pasadena and a possible 18 cases in Long Beach, according to the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, which added that five cases are still under investigation. LA sees an average of 60 cases per year, which is double the rate of recent years, according to the LA County Health Department.
“With increased rat density, diseases like typhus are very likely to occur,” according to Dr. Lee W. Riley – an infectious disease specialist at the UC Berkeley.