Typhus is a disease born of filth, most commonly spread by contact with the feces of fleas. It is most often reported in the third world or places such as POW camps where hygiene is of little concern. Last year, Los Angeles County reported a record 124 confirmed cases of the disease, enough to be classified as a full-blown outbreak. So far, in 2019, more than 50 cases have been reported.

The reason? Fleas are attracted to rats and rats are attracted to huge piles of food-waste infused garbage, like the ones that currently litter vast portions of downtown Los Angeles. The overburdened sanitation department does the best it can, but it simply doesn’t have the manpower necessary to keep up with the gigantic piles of filth that spring up quickly and are left to grow and rot for months at a time.

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Public Works reports that the current backlog for trash pickups around the city’s homeless encampments stands at approximately 8,400, with an average of six calls per site.

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