Yes, and they’re common enough that a few health advisories have been released about them in the last several years. In fact, in 2017, two counties in northern Arizona were found to have fleas carrying the bacterium that causes the plague.
That’s right, the plague, also known as the Black Death which wiped out an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia in the 1300s. Granted, we’re several hundred years in the future and we can thank modern medicine for the number of available treatments. Without treatment, death occurs in 30% to 90% in those infected, and they typically have only 10 days left to live. With treatment though, the risk of death is much lower at around 10%.
Still, as with anything, prevention is better than cure, right? So what do these fleas look like?
Well, they’re very tiny, at only about 1/8 an inch. They’re reddish brown in color with flattened bodies. They’re wingless but can jump to incredible heights at up to 7 inches vertically, and 13 incheshorizontally – which is really impressive considering how small they are. Like the Hulk, but flea-sized.
These tiny insects survive on blood, and are commonly found pet animals like dogs and cats (female fleas consume about 15 times their body weight each day, those gluttons). They’re external parasites that try to live off of one host for their entire lifespan of around 100 days.
If you find your pet scratching one too many times, that may be a good sign that they have fleas. Try running a fine-toothed comb through their fur. You’ll want to look for small brown shapes moving around. These fleas like to congregate near ears and tails of cats and dogs. You may also spot their fecal matter, which look like tiny black specks on the skin and fur.
Killing off adult fleas is relatively easy – there are a number of products out in the market that will take care of that for you. There are collars, lotions, creams, natural sprays, natural or chemical baths. You can also go to the vet and have them get rid of the fleas in the safest possible way.
What’s actually trickier is to make sure the infestation doesn’t reoccur. The eggs that fleas lay may easily fall off of the host’s body, that means that places where your dogs or cats sleep, may be breeding grounds for flea eggs. Same goes for a number of other places where your pets like to roll around in.
You may need to thoroughly clean your home and apply necessary treatment that’s designed to kill off fleas, with a focus on your pets’ sleeping areas. That also includes pet toys and other items or materials they regularly come into contact with. If your pets regularly come in and out of the house, you may want to have your lawn or landscaping treated as well.
Fleas may be found in a number of other animals as well, so be careful when you’re out hiking and stay away from dead animals you may encounter. Fleas jump ship fairly quickly when their host has died – and that means they’ll be in the hunt for a new one.