An American man lost his hands and feet earlier this month after a single flea bite


              An American man lost his hands and feet earlier this month after a single flea bite

A single flea bite has caused a Texas man to lose several limbs over the past month. 

There are more than 2,500 different flea species found around the world, but only four are known to severely affect your health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those 2,500 flea species, only about 300 are found in the U.S. 

Michael Kohlhof, 35, was admitted to the hospital with what he thought was the flu, according to the family’s GoFundMe post. As the day progressed, he was transferred to the intensive care unit as his body became septic. 

Miracles for Michael, organized by JLeene Hardaway

Kohlhof was put on a ventilator, treated with a number of antibiotics and entered dialysis as doctors spent the next 24 hours trying to determine a diagnosis.

By the end of June 20, his family was informed they needed to say their goodbyes. Kohlhof woke up out of his haze about a week and a half later. 

Doctors told the family the reason he experienced sepsis to being with was because Kohlhof had contracted typhus. The flea bite had also caused tissue death in both his hands and feet. 

Both of his hands have been amputated up to his forearms and doctors are still trying to assess what parts of his feet can be saved. 

As he undergoes a number of surgeries to get him back on the road to recovery, his family set up the GoFundMe to cover the cost of medical treatment.

“Michael has strength and will be undergoing an excruciating number of surgeries, therapies and rehabilitation, mostly to restore activities of daily living. But he shouldn’t have to be worried about the financial pain,” his mom J’Leene Hardaway wrote.

What are flea borne diseases?

Some fleas carry viruses that can cause human diseases like the plague, flea-borne (murine) typhus, cat scratch disease (CSD) and flea borne parasites like tapeworms. 

The typhus Kohlhof contracted came from a flea, his family told KSLA12News.

Kohlhof did not develop swelling or a rash where the flea bit him, which could have potentially allowed doctors to treat the disease earlier, KSLA12News reported. 

Murine typhus is transmitted to people by infected animals like rats, cats, or opossums. The bite generally breaks the skin, causing a wound. 

Since fleas poop while they feed. The poop can be rubbed into the wound or any other wounds. People can also contract Murine typhus if they breathe in infected flea poop or rub it in their eyes, according to the CDC.

Symptoms generally begin within two weeks after initial contact. Most common symptoms include:

  • A fever and chills
  • Body aches and muscle pains
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A rash

Murine typhus is normally treated with an antibiotic known as doxycycline. People who are treated right after symptoms begin usually recover quickly.

The disease does not spread from person to person. Murine typhus cases are more common in tropical and subtropical climates. California, Texas, and Hawaii have reported cases to the CDC, but the disease is not typically seen in the U.S.

What you can do to protect yourself against fleas

One of the easiest ways to keep you and your family safe from fleas is to keep your pets flea-free.

Flea species in the U.S. tend to feed on animals, but sometimes people are bitten when they share space or come into contact with a flea-infested animal, according to the CDC. 

Here are some tips from the CDC to keep you safe: 

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. the EPA’s helpful search tool  can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Cover skin with long-sleeve clothing and pants to minimize exposure to bites. Flea bites often occur on the lower legs and feet. Protect these areas with long socks and pants.
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
  • Do not feed or pet stray or wild animals.
  • Always wear gloves if you are handling sick or dead animals.