By MaryAnn Martinez

NORTH TEXAS (CBS11) – Your pets could be exposing you to a disease that’s not normally found in North Texas.

Fleas on pets and wild critters, like possums, won’t make animals sick, but they could send you to the hospital.

Dogs and cats are carriers for something called flea-borne typhus. People infected by fleas have flu like symptoms for about two weeks. In the most severe cases, they develop a rash or end up in the hospital.

“People who have fleas maybe in their yard and as a result of their pets, they get bit,” said Tarrant County’s Chief Epidemiologist Ross Jones. “After they’re bit, the flea defecates, and (people) rub it into their bite not knowing or they rub their eye after rubbing the bite and they become infected.”

Flea-borne typhus isn’t common in DFW.

The Oriental rat flea that carries it are common in South Texas, and cities like San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

Tarrant County health experts don’t know how it made its way north, but they are seeing many more cases.

On a normal year, Tarrant County has about four to six cases. So far this year, there have been 22 cases of flea-borne typhus.

Cases are also up across the state, affecting mostly young people from ages 6 to 15. There is also a spike expected in December.

The good news is all it takes is spraying your home for fleas, and treating your pets.

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