All carpets at Los Angeles City Hall may need to be replaced amid a Typhus outbreak that may have infected one city employee while at work, according to a motion filed by Council President Herb Wesson on Wednesday.
Wesson first became aware of a vermin issue in November 2018, contacted pest control experts and removed all his office's carpets, according to the motion.
The motion reported cleanup issues and a noticeable increase in rodents in the area, which could have contributed to the outbreak.
On Thursday, Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez provided to KTLA video showing rats running through City Hall offices. Spooked staffers could be heard shrieking in the background.
Los Angeles county health officials first reported a Typhus outbreak in downtown Los Angeles in October 2018, the year there were 142 Typhus cases in Los Angeles County alone, according to a study by the California Department of Public Health.
Typhus is a deadly bacterial disease that is typically transmitted through fleas that have been infected by rodents.
Symptoms include high fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, rashes, and in some severe cases, internal bleeding. The disease can be treated with antibiotics, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Wesson's motion asks for a report on the scope of vermin and pest control issues at City Hall, and instructs city staff to report back with a cost estimate for removing all carpets in the building and an assessment of all live plants in any city building.
Elizabeth Greenwood, an L.A. city employee, said she started experiencing flu-like symptoms and went to the doctor in November last year.
A blood test revealed she had contracted Typhus.
“I was in shock. Who thinks of Typhus?” Greenwood said. “I thought of Typhus as something I read about in history books."
She said she felt so sick, she thought she was going to die.
“It is terrifying to me that going from my car, up an elevator to my office, I can get this disease from a flea bite,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood said she refuses to return to work until all of City Hall East is fumigated.
Mayor Eric Garcetti's office issued a statement saying that multiple city departments began a coordinated effort to improve cleanliness in Civic Center last fall.
"In addition to increased trash collection and cleanings, aggressive action has been taken to address pests both in the buildings and in the surrounding outside areas," the statement said.
On Thursday, city workers were seen power-washing the sidewalk outside City Hall, cleaning up piles of trash and filling in rat burrows in the surrounding area.
An email was sent out to all city employees telling them not to leave food out in their work area and to take out the trash daily.
“Rats and cockroaches are survivalists and so they are not easy to eliminate,” Wesson told KTLA. “We need to try to stay one step ahead of them, because what we don’t want, is for some of our employees to get sick.”
Typhus is transmitted through the bite of an infected flea and does not travel from person to person, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.