Fleas

Laterally-compressed jumping insects a few millimetres in size. They feed on the blood of humans and animals (dogs, cats, mice, rats). The most commonly occurring human flea in Western Europe is Pulex irritans, whose larvae develop in clefts and narrow openings. The larvae are 2 to 4 mm long and look like small caterpillars. They develop into fully grown fleas after about four weeks. If a human is bitten by a flea, small, red, very itchy lumps form on the skin. Fleas can also be conveyors of diseases: the rat-flea {Xenopsylla cheopsis) is notorious as a conveyor of plague and typhus. The sand-flea (Tunga penetrans) occurs in Central and South America, Africa and Asia. These fleas live in sand and dig into the skin of humans and domestic animals, usually in the foot. An itchy swelling then forms around the flea which lays its eggs towards the outside. The swelling can be removed surgically. Flea bites are treated by powder or ointment to ease the itching. Fleas can be exterminated by means of pesticides.

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