81-Year-Old San Marino Man Says He Was Misdiagnosed After Contracting Typhus

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"I got to a point where I just couldn't even move, and I thought, 'what the heck is going on?'"

Not long after returning from a busy vacation with his wife, San Marino resident Tom Sachs said he started feeling extremely ill. Despite repeated trips to the hospital, where he was prescribed various kinds of medication, the 81-year-old man's condition worsened.

The aches, chill, and fever would not subside. In fact, he and his family were preparing for his death.

Then he saw an infectious disease specialist, who diagnosed him with typhus, he may have somehow contracted from a flea bite.

"We called the priest and he came in and gave me the last rites," Sachs said.

Sachs is one of many people diagnosed this year with flea-borne typhus -- a disease so debilitating with flu-like symptoms, it can lead to organ damage if left untreated.

Health officials in several surrounding counties including Los Angeles have reported an increase in the number of cases this year, putting a spotlight on homeless encampments due to the unsanitary and overcrowded environment.

Those locations can attract fleas with a certain type of bacteria that cause the disease, carried by rats, feral cats, and opossums.

Sachs believes he may have been exposed to affected fleas while gardening in his backyard.

"I became so helpless I couldn't even get to the bathroom, and I was losing all strength in my legs," Sachs said.

Officials have implemented measures to reduce the risk of exposure, including street cleaning. They're also alerting the public of ways to discard of trash that may attract infected animals.

Sachs is afraid these measures may not be enough, as many people may not even be aware they're fighting a potentially deadly disease that is so hard to detect.

Sachs encourages anyone who thinks they might be infected to immediately seek help from a doctor.

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