BURBANK (CBSLA.com) — The Burbank Animal Shelter is advising residents to take precautions following a recent rise in confirmed typhus cases across Los Angeles County.

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Endemic Typhus Fever is caused by a bacterium known as Rickettsiae and is not directly spread from person to person, health officials said.

“People become infected when they come into contact with fleas infected with the bacteria,” officials said in a release.

So far in 2012, 15 human infection cases have been confirmed in Los Angeles County, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director of Public Health, said.  An additional 17 cases are under investigation, he said.

Burbank resident Mike Alley, 72, nearly died 10 months ago from typhus, which was likely given to him by his cat.

“I just went into fever, and I fell on the floor. I was like, shaking. Within a day or so I didn’t recognize my family. I didn’t know my wife. I didn’t know my kids at all,” he said.

Fielding said typhus is spread though flea bites.

“It starts with the wildlife… possums, skunks, and rats, and then if they get in contact with domesticated animals, those fleas can then switch over to a different host,” he said.

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In 2011, 38 cases of typhus were reported in Los Angeles County.

Officials say there has been a slight increase in flea-borne typhus over the past five to six years.

“I don’t think we know entirely … the weather could have something to do with it and … we just may get doctors reporting more,” Fielding told KNX1070’s John Brooks.

Symptoms of typhus include fever, headaches, rash, muscle aches and chills, which typically appear six to 14 days after infection.

Those who seek treatment immediately should recover with the help of antibiotics.

Prevention Tips:

•Do not feed wildlife or feral cats, as they contribute to the flea population.
•Keep your pets on a monthly flea control program. There are products available that kill fleas on pets on contact.
•Use flea combs to check for flea fecal matter on your pets and bathe them regularly to eliminate flea fecal matter.
•Keep your cats indoor and register them with Animal Control.
•Trim brush, pick up fallen fruit, and seal off crawl spaces to discourage wildlife from establishing residency on your property
•Wear protective equipment such as a mask, goggles, and gloves when cleaning possible wildlife nesting areas.

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Additional information on the disease can be found here.