Mankind's Invisible Predators
It's a miracle we live at all! All these and the labour government as well!Click thumbnail to view full-size
"All the dogs have little fleas who ride upon to bite 'em, and all the fleas have littler fleas; so on, adfinitum",
People spend far too much time worrying about spiders, even fearing them. Flies and wasps bother us, we spend a fortune on sprays to kill or keep them away. Meanwhile, if they had vocal chords like ours , the, billions of tiny pests, most invisible to the naked eye, live in our beds, our furniture, kitchen and bathroom and even in millions on the surface of our skin and inside our bodies, would have a good giggle at our expense as they carry on their daily tasks. This include munching on our dead skin, piercing our bodies for a blood meal, colonising places they shouldn’t be in our digestive tracts and our throats and causing infection, or even, is some cases, leaving us with diseases that could shorten our lives.
Bed Bugs. Nasty little critturs about ¼ inch long which like to engorge themselves quickly with your precious blood. They can lay many eggs all the time and the newly hatched beasties will require a fast injection of blood to reach adult size. Their visits are celebrated by the tiny sores they leave on your skin. Others of the species invade birds like the swallow and certain bats. They usually wait until you are asleep before easing out of the mattress to dine. As do most blood-sucking parasites, they use saliva to stop your blood coagulating and this is what causes local infection and itching. They will hide anywhere in your house where there is wriggle room. A large infection of them can be detected by the rank odor they emit and you might check for this in strange bedrooms: hotels, cruise ships, etc. Infestations of bedbugs among the poor have actually caused children to become anaemic from having their blood siphoned away. If you suspect them, use a good quality bedbug spray right away. Apart from localized infection caused by saliva or your itching, bedbugs do not carry other pathogens as do….
Fleas. We only have about 50 species of flea in the UK: worldwide, there may be more like 2000, many undiscovered. …Fleas Have bothered and also charmed mankind for as long as we have been on earth, certainly as long as recorded history. They were once “trained” and performed in flea circuses attracting hundreds of kids. They have been anthropomorphised in many ways, enjoying special prominence in Disney cartoons and pictures. Their ability to leap enormous distances for their size has added to their image. But fleas are really nasty little parasites that can also transmit other pathogens to man and other warm-blooded mammals. We are especially concerned with the fleas that bite us, our cats and dogs. Cat fleas are especially voracious and undiscriminating: no cat around, bite the master, mainly on the legs. I have a real problem with flea bites as they remain itchy for days, even weeks and have an especially nasty, painful itch which you have to keep scratching. Fleas will live for months waiting for a blood meal to come along…plenty of commercial sprays are available, and, easy to see, they can be hunted down and CRRRRRACKED! between two thumb nails.
Lice Millions of people all over the world suffer from one or more species of lice. The louse is a specialist who will either go for the head, (commonest), the body or the pubic area (crabs) of the host. As lice can also carry very nasty diseases, such as typhus and trench fever, among others; government everywhere have been most concerned to treat and eliminate lice, especially from kids. I can remember in my youth, the district nurse visiting out primary school and running two glass rods through all of our head-hair. Anyone actually having the dreaded lice (and there were many) were teased for a while. Much guffawing can be heard from the human male when the subject of pubic lice comes up and many are the bawdy jokes about “mobile blackheads,” etc. Actually having them - as I have - is no joke at all. My first contact with the pubic louse or crabs was in London where I got them from an Irish stripper. As we were so innocent, but suffering immensely, we removed them with “Flit,” which removed all the skin from the groin area as well! Later, (in the navy) I found out that “blue unction” was the thing to use, although I never recall getting them again as my choice in women moved somewhat up-market. Lice do not invade other animals, which have their own parasites, of course. If it is any consolation, having lice is seen by the medical fraternity as a uniquely human experience! The menace is fairly well controlled these days, but reports annually of up to 6 million kids having head lice in the USA keeps the health authorities on their toes.
Dust mites. Often called HDM (for house dust mite) by doctors inhabit all human abodes and dine on our discarded or flaking skin. You can bet your life there is a specialist creature for all forms of protein in this world. Their diet would not seem so bad if it were not for the fact they often cause asthma, and other allergic symptoms - this especially applies to their fecal matter. If you have keen eyesight, you might just be able to make out these tiny nuisances against a dark background in daylight. They are Acari, have 8 legs, and are closely related to the arachnidea: as you will see in the photo, they are quite fearsome looking monsters, with photographic enlargement. Good household hygiene, thorough vacuum cleaning daily and changing bedding often, meanwhile spraying the mattress, will keep the problem under control.
Blood Flukes Flatworms or Trematodes, also called blood flukes and bilharzia. These are second only to malaria in causing significant infection in humans, according to world health authorities. Hundreds of millions of people are infected world-wide where infected urine or fecal matter passes into water supplies causing more infections. These pathogenic worms are mainly confined to warm regions, such as the tropics, but can be easily picked up by tourists and it might be advisable to be checked after spending time in these areas.
E. coli, or Escherichia Coli, is a bacteria found in the gut of animals and humans. It is harmless, perhaps even beneficial, if it confines itself to the intestine, but it can cause a plethora of potentially debilitating and life threatening diseases if it gets loose around the body. These include bacterial meningitis, cystitis and others. The bacteria can be passed in faeces and it will live outside the body for a long time. Not cooking meat thoroughly is one way to pass the bacteria into the body, as is in other contaminated food or water. One strain, E coli 0157 is a special menace to the very young and the very old. In the UK, about 1000 cases are reported annually and some people have died from complications caused by the bacteria. Hygiene and good food preparation are the ways to combat this pathogen.
Streptococcus We are all too familiar with strep throat and the pain associated with a sore throat, but we may not know this nasty bacterium can also cause meningitis, pneumonia, endocarditic and the awful necrotizing fascitis (the “flesh eating” bacteria). Many of the bacteria types are harmless to man (one is used in cheese making). They are also found as normal inhabitants of the body in many areas. Like all bacteria and virus that can benefit as well as infect man, the subject is extremely complicated and little understood outside the laboratory where different types are continually being found and labelled.
Note that these are only a few of the more common menaces we are exposed to daily. We can never eliminate them entirely, the best we can do is keep their numbers down as far as possible with good hygiene and proper food preparation.