Cat and dog fleas are the most likely fleas to affect humans, though rats and raccoons nesting in a home can also carry fleas. While their bites can cause severe itching and skin infections, they can also spread diseases such as cat-scratch fever, typhus and plague to people.
Ticks feed exclusively on blood. Through their bites, ticks can transmit diseases to people. Most notably, the Deer tick can transmit Lyme disease to people.
Years ago, as a service technician, I provided flea control many times. In fact, on one occasion, I actually brought home adult fleas and infected my dog! “Man bites dog”!
Fleas are insects. They have six legs as the adult and three (3) body parts; head, thorax and abdomen. Fleas develop through 4 life stages; egg, larva, pupae and adult. Adult fleas will mate on the host animal. Females will deposit eggs in the fur of the animal. However, the eggs are not attached – they simply “fall off” onto the ground or onto the floor of your home. A small, worm-like larva emerges from the egg. The larva are blind and have no legs. They do, however, have long hairs projecting from the sides of their body. These hair-like projections propel the larva through the environment. As the larva twist their body against the ground or carpet fibers, they move around the environment. Flea larva feed on dried blood and fecal material from adult fleas.
Larva mature and spin a cocoon. Inside the cocoon or pupae stage, the larva transform into the adult flea. Cocoons can remain in the environment for many months. When conditions are just right, the adult flea bursts out of the pupal case and into the environment. The adult immediately looks for a host to get its first blood meal using its piercing / sucking mouthparts to feed on blood.
Ticks are not insects. They are related to spiders and mites. As adults, ticks have 8 legs and only two (2) body parts; the abdomen and thorax are fused into one part. The head with the mouthparts is attached to this structure.
There are 4 species of tick on Long Island; Deer tick, Lone Star tick, American dog tick and Brown dog tick. All of these species can transmit disease to humans. Most notably, Lyme disease from the Deer tick, Spotted-fever from the American Dog tick, human ehrlichiosis, tularemia, STARI and Red-Meat Allergy from the Lone Star tick and spotted-fever from the Brown Dog tick.
The key to limiting human diseases from ticks and fleas is prevention. Dress properly, use tick repellents and perform personal examinations after spending time in tick-prone areas.
For fleas, determine the source(s) of the fleas; a domestic animal such as a pet cat or dog or perhaps feral cats or raccoons etc.
Pet need to be seen by a veterinarian to determine if there is a flea infestation on the animal. The animal needs to be treated for fleas.
The home needs to be treated for fleas as well.