We detected antibodies reactive with Rickettsia akari, the etiologic agent of rickettsialpox in humans and in 83 of 359 (23%) rodents belonging to several species, collected in Orange County, CA. Reciprocal antibody titers >1:16 to R. akari were detected in native mice and rats (Peromyscus maniculatus, P. eremicus, and Neotoma fuscipes) and in Old World mice and rats (Mus musculus, Rattus rattus, and R. norvegicus), representing the first time that antibodies reactive with this agent have been detected in four of these species and the first report of these antibodies in rodents and humans west of the Mississippi River. We then tested serum samples from individuals who used a free clinic in downtown Los Angeles and found that 25 of 299 (8%) of these individuals had antibody titers >1:64 to R. akari. Serologic evidence suggested that R. akari or a closely related rickettsia is prevalent among several rodent species at these localities and that infection spills over into certain segments of the human population. Isolation or molecular confirmation of the agent is needed to conclusively state that R. akari is the etiologic agent infecting these rodents.
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