GALVESTON, Texas — A disease rarely seen since the 1940s has turned up again in the Galveston area. Murine typhus is spread by fleas on rats and opossums to people. At least 20 people have been treated for the disease at UTMB. Infectious disease expert Dr. Lucas Blanton first noticed its comeback in 2012 when a patient displayed a fever and rash.

“It looked and smelled like it could be murine typhus. Then months later, we diagnosed another one,” Dr. Blanton said. “So when you have one case, it is interesting. When you have two cases, well that gets even more interesting,” Dr. Blanton has worked with Galveston’s animal control officers to take blood and flea samples from opossums. Two out of three tested positive for murine typhus. The disease had been close to eradication since the 1950s thanks to a pesticide called DDT. It’s widely used to kill fleas on rats. FULL REPORT