L.A. City Council Takes Action on Typhus Outbreak, Councilman Blames Homeless Storage Injunction for ‘Crisis’

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One day after reports surfaced about a Typhus outbreak in City Hall, members of the Los Angeles City Council met Friday and discussed taking action .

The meeting came after Council President Herb Wesson filed a motion asking for a report on the scope of vermin and pest control issues at City Hall, and instructing city staff to report back with a cost estimate for removing all carpets in the building.

Wesson first became aware of a rat and flea problem in November 2018 and had all of his office's carpets removed, according to the motion.

Typhus is a deadly bacterial disease that is typically transmitted through fleas that have been infected by rodents.

Video provided to KTLA showed a rat scurrying through a hallway at City Hall as employees shrieked.

At Friday's meeting, Wesson stressed the importance of protecting residents, city employees and visitors from the disease.

“This council truly believes that when individuals come to work for the city of Los Angeles, that the only thing that they should be concerned about is getting here on time," Wesson said. "They should not be concerned about coming to work and finding themselves in an unsafe or unhealthy environment.”

Wesson called on officials to seek expert help in identifying the best and fastest solution for the outbreak at City Hall, and urged authorities to work on a thorough and coordinated effort.

"We want to make sure that we get a handle on this situation and get a handle on it quickly," Wesson said.

Officials believe that the demolition of nearby Parker Center, the former Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, may have contributed to the increase of rodents in the Civic Center area, a city personnel spokeswoman said.

L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino called the outbreak a “crisis,” saying that the issue extends beyond City Hall and is rooted in a court injunction that limits the city's ability to seize homeless people's belongings.

“Rats are emblematic of how we lost control over the homeless trash and encampment issue,” Buscaino said. “If we can’t protect the greatest symbol of our own democracy—our own City hall, if we can’t protect our own staff from a medieval disease, then we should pack up and go home.”

Infected fleas at City Hall may have bitten one city employee, who told KTLA she contracted Typhus and suffered so much pain, she thought she might die.

Los Angeles County health officials first reported a Typhus outbreak in downtown Los Angeles in October 2018, the year there were around 142 Typhus cases in Los Angeles County alone, according to a study by the California Department of Public Health.

A coordinated effort was underway to clean up the area, with weekly cleanings planned for the Civic Center complex, a Department of General Services spokesman said, adding that Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials will be making recommendations on how to deal with the problem next week.

Councilman Buscaino supported taking action at City Hall, but felt it wasn't enough.

"This public health and safety crisis transcends to this entire city and this entire city deserves the same clean-up that we are having here at City Hall," Buscaino said.

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