Fleas and ticks are no longer a problem for Fido. Why can't we have the same luxury? Credit: Pets Wiki

Q: Why aren’t there flea collars for people? I see ads for all kinds of products to protect pets from fleas and ticks, and nasty tick-borne diseases are becoming more common. I’m tired of having to strip and do an extensive tick check after every walk in the woods. —Bill Costa

A: The good news on the prophylactic front here, Bill, is that, particularly in developed countries, modern hygiene has rendered fleas pretty much a medical nonissue. Where they remain a problem (e.g. in sub-Saharan Africa) it’s often because they burrow into the feet and hands—more easily countered with a pesticide wash than with dedicated neckwear.

But let’s separate the fleas from the ticks here, and the havoc-wreaking potential of each. Granted, fleas have run up a more impressive score if you take the historical view—they carried bubonic plague, after all. But while we’ve got plague all but under control these days, one can’t say the same about the infectious diseases passed along by ticks, which as you note present increasingly grave threats to human health.

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