Can humans get fleas? Let’s be clear. Flea stings, worry not so much for pain and itch they cause, but about the potential diseases these insects can transmit. Flea, in fact, are temporary hematophagous ectoparasites, i.e. particular types of parasites that live on the external surface of the host feeding on his blood. They can infest both mammals (including humans) and birds and can be the vector of contagion of various microorganisms responsible for numerous infections. This is precisely why flea stings are so feared and why preventing their infestations (including in the home) is crucial.
Characteristics of flea stings
Flea stings cause small erythemato-pomphoid lesions surrounding the point where the flea bit the host. Generally, such lesions – as annoying as they are – are small and modest in size. In some cases, particularly in children, flea bites can cause vesicular-type injuries. An interesting feature of flea bites is their special arrangement. The lesions caused by flea stings, in fact, reflect the movements made by these ectoparasites during their meals and may appear in groups of three or four, or may be arranged linearly. Another peculiarity of the lesions caused by flea bites is the disappearance of redness when pressure is exerted on them. Fleas can attack humans in any part of the body, but they seem to prefer the lower limbs, which is why, in the vast majority of cases, flea bites are localized at the level of the legs, ankles and feet.
Can humans get fleas
In short, the answer is yes even though we are not their favorite dish. In any case, if there are no animals around and you are the only dish on the menu then in their eyes you will become a delicious roast chicken with side dish and attached sauce, so get ready to take a bite! Even if you don’t have any animals, it’s always better to learn how to protect yourself. Flea are very opportunistic animals when they have to look for food. They usually prefer animals, but if they are not within reach, you too can become an inviting meal. Moreover, you are not only a good meal, but also an excellent means of transport. There are species of fleas ,that can cause serious and painful skin inflammation after a single bite, especially on those most prone to allergies. In fact, this type of flea can use human blood as a primary source of nourishment and also choose people who do not own any animal. Scary, isn’t it? Regardless of the type of dish you choose, flea females need a constant source of nutrition in order to lay their eggs.
Fleas are very unpleasant insects not only for pets; can humans get fleas too ,causing intense itching and, in some particularly sensitive subjects, even allergic dermatitis. The three species of fleas with which man most frequently comes into contact are the Ctenocephalides felis (cat’s flea), the Ctenocephalides canis (dog’s flea) and the Pulex irritans (man’s flea). The sting of fleas on humans is characterized by a tiny dark spot, surrounded by a red area. The swelling is less pronounced than with other insect bites and the redness disappears when pressure is applied to the lesion. In many cases, a single flea stings two or three times in the same area in search of blood: small erythematous papules can be observed, arranged in a linear manner, as a trace of the path taken by the flea on the skin. The most commonly affected sites are the ankles and legs. In addition to causing these annoying symptoms, fleas can be vectors of dangerous diseases, such as typhoid, tularaemia and bubonic plague.
The main symptom induced by flea bites is undoubtedly the itching that can be associated with pain, especially after scratching and continuous rubbing. Sometimes, the area affected by flea bites may have mild to modest swelling. Swelling rarely reaches severe degrees. Finally, in predisposed and sensitive individuals, the saliva of these insects ,inevitably injected into the host during the meal – can cause allergies that manifest themselves with the onset of allergic dermatitis and erythema associated with intense itching. In addition to the potential transmission of pathogens, the continuous scratching and rubbing of lesions caused by flea bites can lead to skin abrasions and wounds, which can lead to infections.
Pathogenic agents transmitted through flea stings
As mentioned, what is most worrying about flea bites are the potential pathogens (bacteria, viruses and parasites) that can be transmitted. Below, therefore, are some of the main microorganisms responsible for causing disease in humans ,that can be transmitted through flea bites.
This bacterium affects rodents and is therefore transmitted to fleas that feed on their blood. The bacterium can then be transmitted from fleas to other rodents or even to humans, causing the plague. Fortunately, this disease has now been eradicated. In any case, this beating can be transmitted by the stings of rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) and man fleas (Pulex irritans).
Is the bacterium responsible for the onset of the murine typhoid. The pathogen is usually transmitted to humans by rat fleas bites (Xenopsylla cheopis).
It’s the bacterium responsible for the tularaemia, better known as “rabbit fever”. Generally, it is transmitted by the stings of fleas belonging to the genus Spilopsyllus species burrows that infest, precisely, the rabbits.
This bacterium gives rise to the so-called cat-scratch disease, because it is usually transmitted by scratches or bites of domestic or stray cats. However, fleas can also be vectors of contagion for this microorganism, both from cat to Cat and from Cat to human being.
Fleas are also vectors of parasites, among which we find those belonging to the genus Hymenolepsis and Dipylidium (in particular, Dipylidium caninum or dog tapeworm). These are platelints that cause intestinal parasites and are usually transmitted by cat and dog fleas (respectively, Ctenocephalides felis and C. canis) and rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis). However, these parasites are not transmitted by flea bites, but through their ingestion. Such transmission, under proper hygienic conditions, is unlikely to occur in humans who would have to unintentionally eat insects infested by it to introduce the parasite into their intestines. Therefore, the transmission of these platelints is much more likely in dogs, cats or other animals that tend to bite and lick their hair to clean themselves or to get relief from flea bites.
Fleas can be a problem throughout the year, as heated domestic environments are an ideal habitat for these pests in the winter months; however, the “flea season” would typically run from early spring to late summer. The life cycle of the parasite lasts on average 2-3 weeks; adult fleas live and mate on the host without ever abandoning him, unless they are forced to. They reproduce very quickly: in one day, a single female flea can lay up to 50 eggs, for several weeks. The eggs, white or oval, are laid where they remain for several hours, before falling on the ground in various parts of the house or in the environment. In hot and humid climatic conditions, the eggs hatch in 2-5 days, releasing larvae of the size of a few millimeters.
The larvae actively seek humidity, avoid direct sunlight and feed on organic debris from the environment such as faeces produced by adult fleas, food residues and fragments of skin or hair. The larvae are elongated, legless and whitish in colour. Within a period varying from a few days to a few months, each larva produces a cocoon, the pupa within which it transforms in adult in about 10 days. When the environmental conditions are optimal, including the availability of feline or canine hosts, the adult insect emerges from the pupa. The entire development cycle can be completed in three weeks, although fully formed adults can survive within the cocoon for many months. These “latent” adults represent a large reserve of parasites in the environment, ready to suddenly infest a passing host and start the life cycle again.
How to protect yourself from fleas
Fleas can jump from one animal to another, but ,as mentioned can humans get fleas too, however, Dog and cats are more likely to infest when they frequent places where they are on the ground waiting for a guest. Therefore, both pests in the animal and in the environment should be controlled. To treat our four-legged friends effectively, the products must have a rapid ability to kill fleas and a long-lasting effect (residual activity) in order to prevent re-infestations. To interrupt the life cycle, adult insects must be eliminated before they lay their eggs. Some insecticides are available in a spot-on form: a very small volume of the liquid containing the insecticide is deposited on the skin of the animal, usually between the shoulder blades, and then spreads to the rest of the body surface within 24 hours. Other dogs or cats sharing the same environment, especially the same resting places, are an important source of new infestation. For this reason, it is important to treat all cohabiting animals regularly at all times.
Prevent infestations in domestic environments
Adult fleas live exclusively on the dog and the cat, whilst in the environment takes place the rest of their cycle, formed by the immature forms, that is, larvae and eggs laid by the female immediately after eating. But remember that can humans get fleas too. Just think that only 5% of fleas are present on the host, while the remaining 95% (eggs, larvae and pupae) are in the environment. In infested human dwellings, larvae can preferably be found in the beds of pets, in cracks in floors, under carpets, in beds or in carpets; in the open air they prefer moist soil and shade. Areas of the house such as parquet or ceramic floors and busy corridors are less likely to facilitate flea development. Similarly, very sunny lawn areas offer unfavorable growth conditions.
Controlling fleas in the environment requires the identification of all potentially infested sites, i.e. areas where flea eggs may have fallen from the animal and developed. To eliminate fleas and eggs, it is useful to vacuum carpets, blankets and upholstered furniture (sofas, armchairs, cushions, beds, etc.) and to remove the bag immediately afterwards. It is a good idea to keep the bedding and resting areas of the animal clean and to wash fabrics and linen at temperatures above 50°C. It is recommended to check the fleas in the environment with disinfecting sprays, at the same time as treating the parasites on the infested cat or dog. Rooted infestations that are difficult to eradicate, on the other hand, may require professional treatment.
Fleas are insects belonging to the order of aphaniteries and are part of the group of temporary haematophagous ectoparasites. This means that they do not live permanently on the skin surface of the host, but that they attack it when they have to feed on its blood. Unlike other arthropods of sanitary interest, it is not only the female specimens that feed on blood, but also the male specimens. Therefore, flea bites are caused by both sexes.
Flea appear as small insects of variable colour from brown to black, without wings and equipped with three pairs of legs thanks to which they can jump from one place to another, or from one host to another. Among the species which can attack the man, we remind you: Pulex irritans (human flea), Ctenocephalides felis (cat flea), C. canis (dog flea) and Xenopsylla cheopis (rat flea). However, fleas that usually infest domestic dogs and cats belong to the genus Ctenocephalides; therefore, in our areas, most flea stings affecting humans are caused by these species.