August 9, 2002
The Department of Health is closely monitoring the rising number of
murine typhus cases in the state. While the current number of cases
remains small, it is expected that cases will continue to gradually
increase and exceed previously observed levels. The number of murine
typhus cases reported statewide from March 2002 to today is 12, with 1
case on Oahu, 1 case on Kauai and 10 cases on Maui. On Maui, 8 cases
are in Kihei, 1 in Lahaina and 1 in Kahului.
A number of factors are contributing to the increase in reported
cases. A dramatic increase in mice in areas of Maui may be contributing
with a greater potential for exposure to fleas from infected mice.
Greater surveillance activity and higher awareness among physicians and
the public from the recent dengue fever outbreak have also likely
contributed to greater reporting and testing of typhus cases.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Effler said, "The Department is
concerned and is thoroughly investigating all reported cases to
determine if there is any indication of a need for additional public
health measures. The increase in the number of cases is understandable
with the increase in mice we’ve been seeing and our heightened
disease surveillance since the dengue fever outbreak."
Fleas from infected rodents spread murine typhus. Symptoms are
flu-like and include headache, body aches, fever, nausea, vomiting and
rash. Anyone with these symptoms is advised to see a physician. Murine
typhus is a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics
prescribed by a doctor. The Department has alerted physicians statewide
to look for symptoms in patients and have them tested.
The DOH has been advising the public to take precautions and control
rodents in and around their homes. Since fleas spread typhus, it is
also important to control fleas that may leave dead mice and bite
humans. Check traps daily and remove dead mice quickly (seal them in a
plastic bag or container and discard). Residents are also advised to
take extra precautions when using poisons to control mice, follow
manufacturer’s directions carefully and consider any children and
pets that may get to the poison.
The Department’s Vector Control staff investigates every
suspected case of typhus to determine rodent control needs in areas
statewide. Staff responds to calls and provides information and
assistance when needed.
The Department has implemented aggressive rodent control measures in
open areas identified with significant rodent problems. This includes
the use of hundreds of bated traps and the application of
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