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Typhus in Texas

One more thing to worry about, in case you needed it.

Strickland spent four days in a hospital receiving treatment and needed about a year to fully recover from the potentially fatal disease transmitted by fleas believed nowadays to be carried most abundantly by opossums and other backyard mammals that spread them to cats and dogs.

Between 2003 and 2013, typhus increased tenfold in Texas and spread from nine counties to 41, according to Baylor College of Medicine researchers

The numbers have increased since then.

Harris County, which reported no cases before 2007, had 32 cases in 2016, double the previous years’ numbers.

Researchers do not know why the numbers are increasing.

In any case, the infection is severe enough that 60 percent of people who contracted the infection during the 10-year period had to be hospitalized. Four died, one in Houston.

“We can now add typhus to the growing list of tropical infections striking Texas,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital, “Chagas, dengue fever, Zika, chikungunya and now typhus – tropical diseases have become the new normal in south and southeast Texas.”


It was Strickland’s bout with the disease, in 2009, that first got the attention of Dr. Kristy Murray, a Baylor associate professor of infectious disease who had taught about typhus in the Valley but had not heard of it in modern-day urban centers, despite a focus on the tropical diseases that have emerged in Texas in recent times.

In the ensuing years, Murray heard enough anecdotal evidence of an increase in cases from local doctors that she decided to look at state data, combing through case histories to document the numbers and spot trends.

Murray was struck by the results, published recently in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which showed 222 cases in Texas in 2013, many in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. That was up from just 30 reported cases in 2003, all in the southern part of the state, in counties such as Hidalgo and Nueces where the disease has remained an issue over the decades.

Unlike many tropical diseases, which predominate in poor areas, the new cases of typhus were just as likely to be reported in more affluent areas, such as Bellaire and West University.

The highest rate of attack was in kids, 5 to 19 years old.

In 2016, according to the most recent state data, the number of Texas cases had risen to 364.

The study in question is here. Typhus, it should be noted, is not the same as typhoid fever, of Typhoid Mary fame. The study in question was published a couple of months ago, and there were a few stories on the same topic at the time. Country musician Bruce Robison had to cancel a few shows recently after he came down with typhus. It can be spread by fleas, so make sure your pets are getting treated. Common symptoms include fever, headache, and a rash, so be aware and take care.

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  1. Bill Daniels says:

    More benefits of open borders…..unvetted, undocumented 3rd Worlders sneaking in, bringing with them long lost diseases that the US thought it had vanquished.

  2. Ross says:

    @Bill, what makes you think that illegal immigrants are carrying typhus? Do you have evidence to support that, or are you blaming illegals just because?

    From the Chronicle article:

    “Typhus was common in the United States through the 1940s – more than 5,400 people contracted the disease in 1944 – when rats that thrived among busy ports, such as Galveston, carried fleas infected with Rickettsia typhi.

    An aggressive DDT campaign largely eliminated the problem in most U.S. areas – fewer than 100 cases were reported nationwide by the mid-1950s – though it never went away in the Rio Grande Valley.”

    Typhus is not contagious, it requires a flea to be involved, and people with typhus are sick enough they probably don’t travel, so it gets spread by animals.

  3. Bill Daniels says:


    Blaming just because. Well, blaming because the article indicates we had pretty much eradicated it, even back in the 50’s. So, how is it getting to Bellaire, TX? Maybe migrating wild animals are the vector? Possible. Just as likely, or more likely, is migrating humans are the vector. How many undocumented immigrants work as housekeepers and landscapers in Bellaire? In West University? And speaking of Bellaire, we think of it as a tony enclave of Houston, but there is actually some crappy housing stock, including apartments, that probably house some of those undocumented. You don’t think all the people traipsing across the border at night, and then hiking for miles to go around the inland La Migra checkpoints don’t pick up a few fleas on the way?

  4. Ross says:

    Bill, if that were the case, there would probably be far more cases in the areas with high numbers of illegals. The links I’ve seen looking at this show typhus in Texas is almost always of a type associated with animal populations, rather than the type associated with human reservoirs.

  5. neither here nor there says:

    Bill, there are more white nationalists so they are the carriers of the diseases, that is using your logic to arrive from point a to point b.

    Why so much hate toward a group Bill?

  6. neither here nor there says:

    Of course Trump voters are not racists, I assume some are not.

  7. Flypusher says:

    Why don’t we look at the science?

    Stuff like typhus is just part of the natural environment in these parts. Humans come into contact with it periodically. Bubonic plague is also out there too, so that’s a heads up for you Bill if you feel inclined to blame any future outbreaks on people from parts South.

    If you want to be worried about new diseases being brought here, focus your concern on disease-carrying mosquitos expanding their ranges northwards because it’s getting warmer.