Typhus Crisis Hits L.A. City Hall

Los Angeles health officials have been battling a flea-borne typhus outbreak for the past several months and, last week, we learned it had finally hit the confines of City Hall. Thanks to an explosive rat problem, at least one city employee — Deputy City Attorney Elizabeth Greenwood — has already contracted the illness. As a result, she was forced to take a four-month leave.

On Friday, city officials met to discuss the vermin problem and the resulting risks to city employees’ health. Friday’s meeting was called by Council President Herb Wesson who learned of the rodent and flea problem back in November and promptly ripped out all the carpets in his office.

“This council truly believes that when individuals come to work for the city of Los Angeles, that the only thing that they should be concerned about is getting here on time," Wesson said. "They should not be concerned about coming to work and finding themselves in an unsafe or unhealthy environment.”

But that’s been the reality for a number of city and county residents for some time. There were 142 cases of typhus in L.A. County in 2018 — a 55% increase over the previous year.

While there is no conclusive evidence linking the problem to the region’s homeless problem, a number of experts and city officials are making the connection.

“Rats are emblematic of how we lost control over the homeless trash and encampment issue,” said Councilman Joe Buscaino said. “If we can’t protect the greatest symbol of our own democracy—our own City hall, if we can’t protect our own staff from a medieval disease, then we should pack up and go home.”

Now that these sanitation problems have hit the halls of city government, will things finally change?