Boston public health officials warn about leptospirosis in homeless as West Los Angeles faces epidemic in dogs.
I have previously reported on typhus outbreaks associated with the ever-expanding homeless encampments in California, which are associated with rat infestations that feed off the garbage and shelter in the debris.
Now public health officials are issuing warnings about another rat-borne disease that is associated with homeless camps. However, this time it is on the East Coast.
The Boston Public Health Commission is warning of a dangerous rat-borne disease that puts the homeless at “high risk” as the rodent population and encampments boom side by side in Mass and Cass.
“The Boston Public Health Commission is investigating a case of human leptospirosis resulting in hospitalization,” the BPHC began in memos sent to the city’s first responders and to clinicians in Boston.
Leptospirosis is a potentially nasty disease spread by the urine of infected animal — often rats or mice. It’s a bacterial infection that’s normally rare in the U.S., per the BPHC’s fact sheet.
The potential symptoms read like a what’s what of what you don’t want: “fever, headache, myalgias, conjunctival suffusion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cough, and/or rash. Severe symptoms can include jaundice, renal failure, hemorrhage (especially pulmonary), aseptic meningitis, cardiac arrhythmias, pulmonary insufficiency, and hemodynamic collapse … even death.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), humans can become infected with leptospirosis through contact with urine (or other body fluids, except saliva) from infected animals or contact with items contaminated with infected bodily fluids. If not caught early and treated with antibiotics, the disease can be debilitating for several weeks.
The time between a person’s exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick is 2 days to 4 weeks. Illness usually begins abruptly with fever and other symptoms. Leptospirosis may occur in two phases:
- After the first phase (with fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea) the patient may recover for a time but become ill again.
- If a second phase occurs, it is more severe; the person may have kidney or liver failure or meningitis.
The illness lasts from a few days to 3 weeks or longer. Without treatment, recovery may take several months.
On the other coast, there has been an epidemic of leptospirosis in dogs around West Los Angeles. It is a potentially fatal infection in canines, and one veterinarian says it is an “epidemic.”
Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can lead to kidney failure and even death, isn’t new, nor is its effect on animals.
But one veterinarian in Los Angeles said they’d seen maybe a dozen cases over the span of 40 years of work. In the past three weeks, however, that same vet has seen triple that number of cases.
…Veterinary surgeon Dr. Alan Schulman says, based on the other veterinarians he’s spoken to on the Westside in recent weeks, 50 to 100 cases is a conservative estimate for how large the canine leptospirosis epidemic has become.
“It’s truly an epidemic,” Schulman said.
Los Angeles City Council recently approved the creation of a program that would provide rental subsidies coupled with supportive services for 10,000 homeless individuals.
The “Housing Now” Program, proposed by Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, who chairs the City’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, was unanimously approved by LA City Council on September 21.
Proposed as a collaboration between the City and County of Los Angeles, the Housing Now Fund would provide rental subsidies coupled with supportive services for an additional 10,000 homeless individuals, according to Ridley-Thomas. Specifically, the program would target those with complex medical and behavioral health needs who reside on City streets.
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