Man Gets So Sick From Typhus That Priest Reads Last Rites

What to Know

  • Typhus is contracted from infected fleas that live on stray cats, rats and wild animals.

  • A recent outbreak of typhus has reached downtown Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley, and Pasadena.

  • In Pasadena more than 20 cases have been reported, four times more than what is seen in a typical year.

A man from San Marino contracted typhus transmitted by fleas six months ago. The case was so severe that he thought he was going to die.

Tom Sachs, 81, still has not fully recovered from the disease. The antibiotic prescribed by the doctors and the physical therapy received has helped him to recover his health little by little. However, he lost 25 pounds.

It all started last April, when Sachs began to feel so weak that he did not have the strength to walk. He couldn’t even find the strength to shave.

“I collapsed in my room and could not even get up from the floor,” says Sachs, who suffered from fever, chills and lack of appetite.

Sachs’ condition did not improve, so he remained hospitalized for several weeks. The doctors thought it was a severe case of the influenza virus, until a specialist finally diagnosed him with typhus.

“We had a priest come in and give me the holy Eucharist and last rite,” says Sachs.

Holy Eucharist is when a priest gives someone final holy communion, and last rites are when a priest anoints the very ill — and those who are on the verge of death.

Typhus is contracted from infected fleas that live on stray cats, rats and wild animals. The flea infects people by leaving excrement on the skin, but it does not spread from person to person.

Sachs does not have a pet, so he thinks he got sick while working in his garden.

The outbreak of typhus has spread from downtown Los Angeles to the San Gabriel Valley. In Pasadena, more than 20 cases have been reported, four times more than what is seen in a year.

“The doctor said you can’t get it twice, so that is a good sign,” Sachs said while laughing.

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