Rotting Trash Piles Up in Los Angeles, Raising Concerns of Another Typhus Epidemic

Growing piles of garbage are attracting rats in Los Angeles, raising concerns that a new epidemic will hit the city after a record number of typhus cases were carried in by fleas last year. Many large U.S. cities, such as New York and Washington, D.C., have teams devoted to aggressive rat control in order to prevent diseases that rats can carry from infected fleas. Los Angeles, however, reportedly has no plan or program to control the growing rat population that feasts on trash piles. Some piles can take up to 90 days to be cleaned up, even after they are reported to city officials. The disease is spread to humans through bacteria rubbed into the eyes or openings in the skin, and results in severe flu-like symptoms. “I can’t walk down the street without thinking that a flea could jump on me,” Estela Lopez, who represents business owners in one of the areas, said. Last year, a record 124 cases of typhus were reported in Los Angeles County.