Last Wednesday I wrote about the massive pile of rat-infested garbage in downtown Los Angeles which had the potential to become a breeding ground for disease. As NBC 4 reported, the city had been called multiple times but seemed to be in no hurry to clean up the mess despite the fact that there was a typhus outbreak (connected to fleas living on rats) in this same area last year.

Maybe that will finally change now that this has happened. Yesterday the LAPD released a statement saying an employee had contracted typhoid. A second employee is displaying symptoms consistent with typhus. The two diseases sound similar but are each caused by a distinct type of bacteria spread in different ways.

The Department has learned about an employee from our Central Division, who has contracted salmonella typhi and is currently being treated for the condition. A second employee has typhus-like symptoms but a specific diagnosis has not been determined.

Our Facilities Management Division is working with the city’s General Services Department to disinfect any work areas that may have been exposed and that work is expected to be completed this evening.

The typhus diagnosis of the second employee hasn’t been confirmed yet. Typhus is spread by fleas or body lice that live on rats or other animals. Typhoid is caused by a different bacteria and can be spread from person to person usually as a result of food or water contaminated with feces. From ABC News:

Salmonella typhi is uncommon in the U.S. and other modern industrialized nations, affecting only about 350 Americans each year — most of whom recently returned from overseas travel. Worldwide, it affects an estimated 22 million people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)…

Salmonella typhi is commonly spread through food or water that has been contaminated by someone shedding the bacteria. The bacteria can be spread by both people who are actively ill as well as so-called “carriers” of the bacteria but not showing symptoms — one in 20 go on to become carriers. Salmonella typhi is responsible for causing typhoid fever, according to the CDC, .

It’s unclear what caused the officers’ illnesses.

The person who contracted typhoid is apparently a cop. Police aren’t saying whether the infected officer patrols Skid Row but, as I said at the top, the city has known about the typhus problem in the same area since last year. Typhoid is a new wrinkle but it’s the same underlying problem: Homelessness. The garbage collects because of thousands of homeless people living on the street. That leads to an explosion of rats and the diseases they carry as well as feces on the streets and sidewalks.

This really isn’t rocket science. Mayor Garcetti needs to get off his rear end and clean up the massive piles of trash downtown. The city also needs to come up with a plan to eradicate the rats, something it doesn’t currently have. Here’s an NBC 4 report on the situation: