Fleas are external blood-sucking parasites that host on humans, dogs, cats, rats and other animals. They are often brought into homes by infested pet dogs and cats, or by rats. Fleas usually bite humans around the ankles and lower legs. The bite wound can develop into skin inflammation. Fleas are also carriers of human diseases, the most significant of which is the deadly plague, as well as murine typhus.
Adult fleas are about 2 – 2.5mm long. The body is flattened vertically to enable them to move rapidly between the host’s body hairs. Their legs are very well-developed and powerful, making them ideal for jumping. Fleas prefer warm and humid conditions and are attracted by the body warmth of the animal host. When the host dies, the fleas leave the body in search of another host.
The eggs are not glued/stuck to the hairs or body but are deposited on or between hairs, or in the nest or bedding material. Hence, eggs on the animal either fall or are shaken off, and are frequently found in cracks and crevices where pets sleep or lie down. This explains why after treating a pet, fleas are found on them soon after.
It is not necessary to have pets in the building in order to have fleas present. Since fleas can jump about 6″ (15 cm) vertically, they can easily hitch a ride on shoes, trousers, etc. Fleas are typically found where animals sleep or frequent.
To reduce the likelihood of a flea infestation at home, follow these simple measures:
- Maintain a high standard of cleanliness within your premises. Floors, carpets and upholstery should be vacuumed and cleaned frequently to remove adult fleas and eggs.
- Infested pets should be treated by a veterinarian immediately.
- Always keep pet bedding and surrounding areas clean. Keeping pets outdoors helps to reduce the flea problem indoors.
- The homeowner must do the following just before the flea treatment:
- Remove all items such as toys and pillows off the floor or carpet.
- Remove all articles from under beds, from closet floors, and from under furniture
- Vacuum all upholstered furniture, floors, and carpeting, paying particular attention to the foot of the furniture on which the pet rests, under furniture, and wall-floor junctions. The vacuum bag must be immediately removed and put into a plastic garbage bag, the top sealed, and then placed in an outside garbage receptacle or burned.
- Thoroughly clean all areas frequented by cats, e.g. table tops, refrigerator tops, window sills, counters, etc.
- Mattresses, cracks and crevices in the floor, walls and beds should be treated with insecticides.
Fleas may be brought into your home by rats and mice infesting the house, so rodent control should also be considered.
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