A Houston the man is recovering after losing both hands and parts of his feet to a flea bite.

Michael Kohlhof, 35, was visiting his mother in San Antonio in June when he started feeling unwell. He had flu-like symptoms and some gastrointestinal issues.

On June 19, Kohlhof was admitted to the emergency room. The next day, he was hooked up to a ventilator and his organs were failing. Doctors diagnosed him with a severe case of typhus, a bacterial infection transmitted by fleas.

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“Within hours, they said she had sepsis,” said Kohlhof’s mother, J’Leene Hardway. “And the next day, he was admitted to ICU with septic shock and intubated and put on a ventilator, CRT, which is 24-hour dialysis. Then, within 24 hours, they said to call family members to come see him.”

Hardway said doctors used “every drug they could think of” to save her son’s life, including antibiotics, steroids and vasopressors. The vasopressors saved Kohlhof’s life, but also caused damage to his hands and feet.

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Photo courtesy of J’Leene Hardaway/Greg Kohlhof

Kohlhof has since had both of his hands amputated in his forearms and has had one of several surgeries planned for his feet. He is still in the hospital but should make a full recovery.

Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the UT Health Houston School of Public Health, said typhus cases have been on the rise in Texas in recent years.

“We only saw it in the southern part of Texas,” Troisi said. “But over the past decade, we’ve seen more cases. If you look across the state, there’s not a single county that doesn’t have at least a few cases.”

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Photo courtesy of J’Leene Hardaway/Greg Kohlhof

Typhoid is spread by fleas infected with bacteria. Fleas can be found on rats, cats, opossums, and other animals.

The symptoms of typhus are similar to those of other illnesses, such as the flu. They include fever, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and rash.

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Typhoid is treatable with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, it can be fatal.

Troisi said the best way to prevent typhus is to avoid getting bitten by fleas. She recommends keeping fleas in check on your pets, not leaving pet food outside, and making sure trash and compost are sealed tightly.

If you spend time outdoors, you’ll want to wear EPA-approved insect repellent.