Human infestation by pigeon fleas (Ceratophyllus columbae) from feral pigeons

Ann Agric Environ Med. 2004;11(2):343-6.


The report concerns a married couple who were repeatedly invaded by pigeon fleas (Ceratophyllus columbae) over a period of 2 months. The source of the fleas was a pair of breeding feral pigeons (Columba livia). The birds' nest was located in the attic immediately above the couple's apartment, and the fleas found their way along an unsealed heating pipe. The people encountered up to 40 bites per night. With invasions repeated almost every night, the man gradually developed an allergic urticarial reaction. The most traumatic experience for the couple, however, was to learn that they were invaded by fleas (initially, they had presumed they were bothered by mosquitoes). This information resulted in severe psychological distress with phobic reactions and insomnia. Despite the successful removal of the fleas and the pigeons that were source of the pest, parasitophobia of the man persisted over the following 4 months. This case is discussed from the broader aspect of health risks related to feral pigeons and animal fleas. Also summarised are previous observations on people invaded by pigeon fleas.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Bird Diseases / transmission*
  • Columbidae / parasitology*
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / pathology
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / transmission*
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / veterinary
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Siphonaptera / pathogenicity*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Switzerland
  • Zoonoses