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Fever, diarrhea, vomiting and other symptoms of a failed nation

Photo by Devon Wilson on Unsplash

Meanwhile, in the same country where a bunch of rich people have just been arrested for allegedly paying bribes to get their sub-par kids into college, the most marginalized and poorest people are getting very sick:

Infectious diseases — some that ravaged populations in the Middle Ages — are resurging in California and around the country, and are hitting homeless populations especially hard.

Los Angeles recently experienced an outbreak of typhus — a disease spread by infected fleas on rats and other animals — in downtown streets. Officials briefly closed part of City Hall after reporting that rodents had invaded the building.

People in Washington state have been infected with Shigella bacteria, which is spread through feces and causes the diarrheal disease shigellosis, as well as Bartonella quintana, which spreads through body lice and causes trench fever.

Hepatitis A, also spread primarily through feces, infected more than 1,000 people in Southern California in the past two years. The disease also has erupted in New Mexico, Ohio and Kentucky, primarily among people who are homeless or use drugs.

Here are the symptoms and complications for some of the illnesses discussed in the article.

Murine typhus

Symptoms of murine typhus begin within 2 weeks after contact with infected fleas. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Body aches and muscle pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Cough
  • Rash (typically occurs around day 5 of illness)

Most people will recover without treatment, but some cases may be severe. When left untreated, severe illness can cause damage to one or more organs including the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain


People who are sick from Shigella infection usually start experiencing symptoms 1 to 2 days after contact with the germ. Symptoms of shigellosis include:

  • Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling the need to pass stool [poop] even when the bowels are empty

Some people with shigellosis will not have any symptoms.

Symptoms usually last 5 to 7 days, but some people may experience symptoms anywhere from a few days to 4 or more weeks. In some cases, it may take several months before bowel habits (for example, how often someone passes stool and the consistency of their stool) are entirely normal.


People who are in poor health or who have immune systems weakened from diseases such as HIV/AIDS, or chemoterhapy for cancer, are more likely to get sick for a longer period of time if they have shigellosis. They should contact their healthcare provider if they think they have shigellosis to determine the best course of treatment.

Trench fever

Trench fever, Bartonella quintana

  • Fever (may occur once or repeatedly)
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Bone pain, mainly in the shins, neck, and back

Other complications

Bacillary angiomatosis (caused by B. henselae or B. quintana) and bacillary peliosis (caused by B. henselae) occur primarily in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with advanced HIV infection. Bacillary angiomatosis may result in lesions in the skin, under the skin, in bone, or in other organs.


Many Bartonella species can cause infection of the heart valves (subacute endocarditis), which is often culture negative.

Hepatitis A

Older children and adults typically have symptoms. If symptoms develop, they can appear abruptly and can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Diarrhea
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

One thing these illnesses have in common is that you wouldn’t want to come down with one, even you were relatively healthy, had a roof over your head, a job with sick leave, a fridge stocked with clear foods and ready access to health care and indoor plumbing. Take away just one of those things and you’d suffer a lot more. Take away all of those things and the diseases are devastating and potentially deadly.

To make matters worse for the homeless, the response of people who aren’t homeless will probably be as ‘medieval’ as the diseases. This is a country where allegedly liberal people call the chronically homeless dangerous and disgusting because the homeless have committed unforgivable crimes. Like being too poor to afford medical care, regular baths or trips to the laundromat. Add disease to the mix and whether they’re readily communicable from person to person will be irrelevant to the more privileged — whose numbers will likely include anti-vaccination types — shrieking that we must do something to protect the children from dirty old bums.

But none of those hysterically demanded somethings will involve the only real solution: To provide people with adequate health care and housing. The kids are important, but not as important as keeping those taxes low!


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