Flea-borne infections are emerging or re-emerging throughout the world, and their incidence is on the rise. Furthermore, their distribution and that of their vectors is shifting and expanding.
Fleas reproduce really fast, particularly if you have one or more pets in your home. However, even people who don’t have any pets are at risk of flea infestations, as fleas can still make their appearance in your garden. Fleas breed in tall grass, shaded areas near decks, in woodpiles, and in storage spaces. They are fond of living in wooden floorboards, in bedding and in carpets and individuals that keep pigeons should remember that birds are carriers of fleas too.
Fleabites appear as tiny little red bumps with a red ring around the centre of the bite. These bites usually appear in clumps of three or four, or in straight lines, often making their appearance around the ankles and legs. If you get a flea inside your clothing, you will often have bites on your lower back and waist, the armpits, breasts, groin area and in the folds of knees and elbows. Fleabites are itchy and the skin can become rather painful around the area of the bite. Should the skin become damaged and broken from scratching, secondary bacterial infections can set in. Keep bites clean with antiseptic to avoid infection, but if you get it, visit your pharmacist right away.
Flea eggs can be found anywhere: in the ground, on rugs, carpets, bedding, and upholstery, with most hatching within two days of being laid. Larvae that hatch make up about 35% of the flea population. The larva will spin cocoons in five to twenty days after hatching from the eggs. The cocoons are the pupal stage of the flea’s life cycle before the adult fleas emerge. When the environmental conditions are perfect for emergence the cocoon will protect the developing adult fleas for months, until a potential host becomes available which is detected through vibrations, elevated levels of carbon dioxide, and body heat of the host. They are then released in order that they may feed on a host. Within 24 to 48 hours after taking their first meal, they mate, and female fleas start laying their eggs within a couple of days.
Fleas feed on animals with hair including rats, mice, dogs, cats, rabbits, as well as other domestic or wild animals. They are capable of jumping long distances. Fleas are also capable of carrying diseases when consuming blood from a host that is infected. The transmission of a disease may occur by the regurgitation of a precious blood meal from an infected host, or by passing contaminated faecal pellets on an uninfected host.
Humans are at risk of fleabites when they come in contact with the flea carriers. Humans seldom contract diseases from fleas, but for your pets these can cause harmful diseases.
Tapeworms are parasitic flatworms that can be transmitted by fleas. They may be ingested during grooming. If you accidentally eat any infected fleas or are in contact with infected flea faeces, you may also develop tapeworms.
For example, fleas spread bubonic plague worldwide. Infected fleas typically live on wild rodents. This disease is curable with a quick antibiotic treatment. While it’s no longer common for humans to get the plague, your pet can still become infected if a flea that has fed on the blood of an infected wild animal bites it.
Alcohol, calamine lotion, tea tree oil, and vinegar may be used to help relieve the itching caused by fleabites. Don’t scrub too hard, as you may enlarge the hole of the bite. You should always clean the infected area with an antiseptic in order to reduce the chances of introducing a bacterial infection.
Although fleabites will usually go away without any treatment, once you have a flea infestation you will find it really difficult to get rid of, no matter how many times you vacuum or wash your pets bedding; you might have to fumigate your home or call in pest control experts. Therefore treating your pets during spring and summer is well worth the effort.