Diseases caused by fleas in humans

Diseases caused by fleas in humans

Pulex irritans is mainly a nuisance to humans. The flea's saliva contains enzymes and histamine-like substances, which may cause an allergic reaction in some of their victims. These allergic reactions may involve an intense itching sensation. The parasite can also be a vector of a variety of diseases.

Even though Pulex irritans was not the primary species responsible for spreading the bubonic plague throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, it is capable of transmitting it. Pulex irritans may also transmit murine typhus, tularemia, and tapeworm, but the chances of this are relatively rare.

One disease, in particular, that Pulex irritans is known to transmit is murine typhus. Murine typhus is a mild form of typhus caused by the bacterium Rickettsia typhi. The fleas become infected with the bacterium by feeding on a human who has the disease.

The bacteria grow in the epithelial cells lining the flea's gut wall and are excreted in the insect's feces. After approximately twelve to eighteen days, the infection will kill the flea.   Scratching of a fleabite will infect a person. Rubbing of the bitten area will spread the flea's infected feces into the wound. An infected person will experience headaches, marked prostration, malaise, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, and a rapid rise in temperature with fever after an incubation period of one to two weeks. Within four to six days after the initial symptoms appear a rash will form over most of the body.

The good news is that human fleas are very uncommon in homes, and much more often associated with wildlife. Also, human fleas, like most of their relatives, aren’t that picky: they will gladly feed on cats, dogs, monkeys, birds, rats. In return, some other fleas will still take a bite out of you, even though they have evolved to live on other species, so when in your home, you are more likely to get flea bites from insects who would rather feed on your cat or your dog.

The human flea is found all over the world. Besides man, it infests cats, dogs, and many other domestic animals, particularly the pig. It breeds in profusion in pigsties, and people working in them can readily pick up large numbers of fleas and start infestations in their homes. The human flea is usually the most important species in farm areas. While the bites of the cat flea tend to be concentrated on the lower parts of the legs, those of the human flea may be generally distributed over the body.

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