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LAPD employee contracts bacteria that causes typhoid fever

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This photomicrograph reveals some of the histopathology exhibited in a lymph node tissue specimen in a case of typhoid fever.
(Armed Forces Institute of Pathology)

At least one Los Angeles Police Department employee at the agency’s downtown L.A. station has contracted the bacteria that causes typhoid fever and is being treated for the condition, the department confirmed Wednesday evening.

The LAPD said in a statement that it had “learned about an employee from our Central Division who has contracted Salmonella Typhi,” the bacteria that causes typhoid fever.

The department confirmed that a second employee has contracted a lower intestinal infection, but a specific diagnosis has not been determined.

A source who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly said that a third employee had also left work with similar symptoms, and that all three employees were detectives.

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An LAPD spokesman told The Times that none of the infected employees were patrol officers.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness with symptoms that include stomach pain, diarrhea and loss of appetite. It is not commonly found in the United States but rather typically occurs in parts of the world where water is more likely to be contaminated with sewage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 350 people are diagnosed with typhoid fever each year, most often after traveling outside the United States to countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, according to the CDC.

People with typhoid fever or who are carriers of Salmonella Typhi bacteria can spread the bacteria to other people.

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The LAPD’s facilities management division is teaming with the city’s General Services Department to disinfect work areas that might have been exposed. That work is expected to be completed Wednesday evening.

“The health and well-being of every LAPD employee is vital and we will be working diligently to ensure we are creating a safe work environment,” the agency said in its statement.

“Unfortunately, our police officers often patrol in adverse environments and can be exposed to various dangerous elements. We have notified the Police Protective League as well as all of our employees working at Central Division about the outbreak, and we have further provided them with strategies to stay healthy while we mitigate this issue.”

The board of directors for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the police labor union, said in a statement that officer safety must be considered.

“At this point we don’t care who is at fault, we just want these toxic work sites cleaned and sanitized,” the statement reads. “Officers worry enough about being shot or injured policing the streets of Los Angeles, they shouldn’t also have to worry about being infected with diseases they can take home to their families simply by showing up to work. Our demand is simple; clean it up and provide preventive measures before there is a massive outbreak.”

No further information was provided about whether any of the sickened employees recently left the country.

In its statement, the LAPD mentioned “typhus-like symptoms” but later clarified to The Times that any health concerns were related to Salmonella Typhi, not typhus.

Last October, health officials warned the public about a typhus outbreak after several people in downtown L.A. contracted the disease.

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Typhus is distinct from typhoid fever and cannot be passed between people. Rather, typhus spreads when fleas become infected with bacteria known as Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia felis. The illness reaches humans when fleas bite them or when infected flea feces are rubbed into cuts or scrapes in the skin, according to the CDC.

Times staff writer Soumya Karlamangla contributed to this report.


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