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Are Fleas a Health Hazard?

fleas, health
While most are just a nuisance, one type of flea is a known health hazard. (Image credit: Gregory Sutton)

Most fleas are no more than a nuisance to humans.

"They generally cause a lot of itching and scratching," says Marcia Larkins of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine. "They may also cause some discomfort due to possible allergic flea bite dermatitis."

One type, the oriental rat flea, transmits plague to humans in Asia, Africa, and South America. Both male and female fleas can transmit the infection.

Some pets are extremely allergic to flea bites. In these pets, fleas may cause a rash, inflammation, and hair loss. In response, cats may compulsively overgroom, according to the FDA.

Fleas are hard to spot — look for their black, poppyseed-like excrement.

A recent study found that simple vacuuming is an effective way to rid your home of fleas.

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Live Science Staff
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.