In a recent blog post, I touched on many of the more common diseases potentially transmitted from animals to people, otherwise known as zoonotic diseases. In the recent veterinary literature, I have been reading even more articles on the role fleas play, especially in indoor/outdoor cats and certain potential wild life reservoirs such as opossums, in recently recognized diseases in people.
While one often thinks of ticks and the role they can play in transmission of Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever to dogs and people, cat fleas may also act as an important vector and vehicle of transmission of other, what are known as Rickettsial diseases in people. In addition to these diseases, fleas have been well known to play an important role in transmitting Bartonella to cats, the causative agent of cat scratch disease in people and other Bartonella induced diseases in humans.
Fleas also carry various species of mycoplasma organisms, which can cause varying degrees of illness in cats including anemia and other systemic signs of illness. It is therefore recommended to implement rigorous flea control with either conventional flea products such as Advantage II, Frontline Plus, or natural products for those so inclined, to help prevent infection with the above infectious agents to cats and their human guardians. Limiting exposure of cats to wild life such as opossums is also important in preventing transmission of these diseases.