Fleas Are on the Attack!

Fleas as biological weapons.

Fleas are on the attack again. I know how much of an itchy nuisance they can be, so when I saw my dog scratching furiously the other day I brought him to the tub and gave him a thorough bath. Then I covered him up with flea powder. Soon he was a happy dog again and couldn't wait to go out the yard and play.

The fleas have fled. At least for now.

But dogs are not the only creatures that should be wary of fleas. In fact these parasites are even more dangerous for humans; they are so fatal that fleas have been used as weapons in biological warfare.

The Japanese experimented with fleas during World War II. These insects were infected with Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that caused the Black Death of the Middle Ages, then dropped them over Chinese cities using a flea bomb. They were hoping to recreate that same plague that claimed the lives of millions of people in Europe. Their attempts managed to kill a few hundreds.

These experiments, however, proved promising that the Japanese even planned to manufacture giant submarines capable of launching aircraft bombers which in turn can carry more sophisticated flea bombs.

Ironically, the Chinese army was one of the first to make use of this biological weapon in actual warfare. Human and animal carcasses infected with the plague were thrown into enemy cities' water supplies, again with the hope that a pandemic would occur.

During the Cold War, the United States and the former Soviet Union both saw the potential of these flea weapons. The U.S. later focused their research more on mosquitoes as disease carriers while, on the other hand, scientists who worked on the Soviet biological weapons program claimed success and had allegedly amassed a large stock of the bacteria for deployment. Until now, information regarding this claim is scarce and unverified.

Reading through all that doesn't make me scared of fleas. I get rid of them not because I'm afraid of a possible resurgence of the plague. I do it because I love my dog and no flea is going to make him itchy and unhappy.