Monday, August 16, 2010

Typhus Carried by Rat Fleas in Northland

Auckland Public Regional Health Service has warned people in the Hellensville-Kaukapakapa area of Northland, New Zealand, to be specially careful to avoid contact with rats as they have been found to harbour fleas carrying the disease murine typhus.

Murine typhus is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia typhi. Flea faeces may contain the bacterium and infections are passed to humans by infection via the bite of the rat flea or other cuts and abrasions contacted by the flea faeces. Symptoms include fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Murine typhus is rarely fatal (2% of infected people may die) but can be very unpleasant for those affected. The onset of symptoms may not occur for for one to two weeks following contact with the bacteria. Prompt antibiotic treatment is usually sufficient to cure the disease.

The public health department in Auckland is warning farmers, lifestyle block holders and others in the affected area to be pro active in ridding their properties of mice and possums as well as rats because these other pests can also carry the infected fleas. Preventative treatment against fleas in the home may also be a good policy to protect against infection.

Rodney Times Story

If there is a species of flea for every mammal, it begs the question:
Is there one for vampires?

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