[UPDATED with Traps Sabotaged:] Typhus Report Leads to Santa Ana Cat Killing

UPDATE, MAY 31, 12:54 P.M.: Outrage over the controversial Orange County Vector Control campaign to eradicate fleas carrying typhus by eradicating Santa Ana cats that may be carrying fleas has moved from the virtual world--in the form of online opposition--to the real world. Though one of six traps set at Frances E. Willard Intermediate School on North Ross Street caught a possum that is now being tested for typhus, the others were sabotaged.


By someone throwing objects into the traps to make them close.

Santa Ana Police say the perpetrators were not captured on school surveillance video, so there are no suspects.

Except for a certain smirking tabby.

UPDATE, MAY 29, 3:50 P.M.: Who didn't see this coming?

Alley Cat Allies, "the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats," today called on officials in Santa Ana to halt trapping and killing feral cats "in a misguided effort to eradicate flea-born typhus.What follows is the Betheda, Maryland-based organization's release:


BETHESDA, MD-- Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats, today urged public health workers in Santa Ana, Calif., to stop trapping and killing cats in a misguided effort to eradicate flea-born typhus.

"This trapping ignores the basic scientific fact that typhus is not spread by cats--it is caused by a bacteria spread by fleas. Killing cats is cruel and is not a solution," said Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies.

Epidemiologist Deborah L. Ackerman, M.S., Ph.D., notes that fleas are versatile parasites and will simply find another host, as dogs, raccoons, opossums, mice and all mammals as well as birds are potential hosts for fleas. Outbreaks of the disease are rare. In previous outbreaks in California, infected fleas have been found on pet cats. In Texas, in another endemic area, officials have found dogs with infected fleas.

Alley Cat Allies advises officials in Santa Ana to follow the example of other areas with typhus cases by focusing their efforts on controlling the source of typhus--fleas. Less than 50 miles north, Los Angeles County advises treating pets for fleas and using humane outdoor cat deterrents to control flea infestations. Instead of killing feral cats, who avoid people by nature, the organization urged Santa Ana officials to provide community resources for residents to treat and protect their pets, whom they come in contact with every day.

"Feral cats aren't the problem, but they are paying for it with their lives. This trapping and killing will not protect the public and it has to stop immediately," said Robinson.

ORIGINAL POST, MAY 29, 11:08 A.M.: Public health workers are laying traps at Frances E. Willard Intermediate School and El Sol Science and Arts Academy in Santa Ana today after a nearby resident contracted flea-borne typhus last week. The plan is for feral cats carrying the fleas to wander into the traps before the felines are sedated and euthanized, according to county vector control officials.

Also known as Endemic typhus and Murine typhus, the disease can produce chills, rashes, headaches, high fever and body aches and pains to people exposed to it.

Due to federal privacy laws, city officials could only identify the person who contracted typhus as a resident of the Broadway-Washington Avenue area of Santa Ana. Some media reports have described the victim as a child.

Nearby Willard School, which is in the 1300 block of North Ross Street, and El Sol in the 1000 block of North Broadway are being targeted for traps because feral cats roam each.

Residents citywide are being advised to treat their pets with flea medication and to remove any pet food that wild animals can get to. Learn more from the county vector control district alert or the vector control district flea-borne typhus page.

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