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Fleas on a werewolf - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Fleas on a werewolf
Odd thought of the morning: It's true that a werewolf would only attack a human, but it's still an animal outside. What happens to fleas and mosquitoes that bite it? Instant death? Become little flying flea-wolves who attack their own kind? Or what if a werewolf flea doesn't die, but then goes and bites another human--could it be passed that way, the way the plague spreads via rat fleas?

Inquiring minds who should be working want to know.
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author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: May 22nd, 2005 05:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's a really good question. One I don't really know the answer to, sadly. But I wouldn't think so - I'm not even sure a flee would live long enough to try and get near one in his form.
gehayi From: gehayi Date: May 22nd, 2005 05:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I actually remember reading this when I was going through a folklore stage a few years ago. Simply put, any animal that bites a werewolf either in human or animal form will die, because the werewolf's blood is poisonous. (Humans do not count as animals in this piece of folklore, and are not killed or infected if they bite a werewolf who is in human form, or if the human werewolf bites them.)

Therefore, there are no werewolf fleas or other vermin, and lycanthropy cannot be spread through secondary vectors.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, good. I'm glad I'm not the only person to wake up thinking about the question, among other things. Of course, we can't be sure that Rowling goes with the standard lore on this, but it would be an interesting tic... and a real danger in Remus's CoMC classes.
gehayi From: gehayi Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
It would also be a major hazard to his Animagus friends when they were transformed. Especially to Sirius/Padfoot, as dogs do a lot of biting even in play.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Which brings up the interesting question of how much of a dog an animagus dog is. Would it really respond as a dog physically? It's kind of muddy. I mean, if Sirius in dog form was at a crime scene and cut his paw, would Muggle investigators find human or canine DNA when they analyzed it?
gehayi From: gehayi Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, Sirius says he spent a lot of time in dog form in Azkaban because as a dog, he didn't think the same way that he would as a human, and so was less susceptible to the Dementors. That seems to indicate that as a dog, Sirius is a DOG--not a human in a dog suit. I suspect that he can think in a semi-human-like way for a short period after transforming, but the longer he spent in animal form, the more difficult it would be for dog-Sirius to think and reason as a human.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Psychologically, yes... but what kind of physical stuff is involved? And even psychologically--he has the slowed down thinking, but what if there were a female dog in heat around? Psychologically, what would his reaction be? (Obviously not a question JKR is going to get into!)
gehayi From: gehayi Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. Well, you and I are going to disagree on this one, because to my mind Sirius is gay. And there are gay animals. So I'd imagine that Sirius-as-Padfoot would be physically aroused by the female dog's pheromones and but psychologically not interested.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, the question doesn't change that much--would he psychologically want sex with a male dog if he were gay? (And the female dog one has the added question of what the issue of such a union would be, but that's a little grotesque even for me.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
(And actually, for some reason, I have very little difficulty thinking of Sirius as gay. Or straight. I can see either. It's Remus I see as straight, for my difficulty with R/S.)
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: May 23rd, 2005 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
brian melts.
I realize inedto knw tis too .for reasons of edical research wn e'd ea 'pet' hidign somewher and for how far his human intuitio ngoes with you know meeting beautifu lwomen. woudl he react more on beautifu lfemale dogs now? (oh god not goign that way lease...)
dramaturgy From: dramaturgy Date: May 22nd, 2005 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
This would be... extremely off the topic but I have icon love!
From: psalm_27 Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Become little flying flea-wolves who attack their own kind?

Ah, the stuff nightmares are made of.

Seriously, I would think that the insect would die immediately due to its inability to metabolize the poison effectively. I'd like to think that many real diseases die off this way.
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had a similar thought last night. I was wondering if the Marauders ever did the blood brother thing - where you press cuts together - and whether Remus would have been able to do it, and what would happen to his blood at the full moon if it was a drop in, say, James's body.
From: hobviously Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Rowling states in FBaWTFT that lycanthropy can only be spread through the bite of a werewolf, so I think fleas must be pretty normal.
eir_de_scania From: eir_de_scania Date: May 22nd, 2005 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Or we have found the origin of most insect-spread diseases?

Possibly an Animagus is animal enough not to become werewolf if bitten. Or Sirius was just lucky. Wormtail was lucky too, as Sirius did see him for what he was. Normally, a dogs first reaction when seeing a rat is "YAY! A chewtoy!"
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: May 22nd, 2005 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess I've come to think that magic doesn't spread the way a disease does. The curse is not an infection of the blood, but is specifically spread when a werewolf in wolf form bites a human in human form. We don't know whether Remus got any bites in when he fought his fellow Marauders, but it's safe to assume so. You could say that the magic alters the subject genetically, but the magic doesn't get passed on except through a very specific event (biting).
laureate05 From: laureate05 Date: May 22nd, 2005 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
So you're saying it's simply the act of biting that spreads the curse?

See, I was always under the impression (based on little evidence, I'm sure; I'm not a werewolf enthusiast) that the wolf's teeth had to break the human's skin for lycanthropy to spread, which to me makes it seem more like an infectious disease. It seems almost like a blood-born virus to me, which survives in all the bodily fluids of its host, but must infect a new host by entering the blood stream. Does that make sense?

Of course, I accept whatever the canon of a universe says about its version of lycanthropy, and it can certainly differ from my own poorly thought out theory. This is just how I see it, in absence of a more complete explanation from whomsoever sets the canon.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 22nd, 2005 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure this is more than anyone wants to know, however -

One of the roots of werewolf legends is believed to be rabies. In the case of this disease, there could be a person attacked by an actual wolf - one behaving with a lot more aggression than a normal wolf would and that might not be frightened off in ways a normal wolf would - and the infected human would (normally from the bites) develop an ugly, fatal disease that might cause the human to behave with insane aggression as well.

But I know of no cases where dog fleas caused rabies.

Neither fleas nor mosquitos spread a variety of blood born diseases. The diseases they do spread normally have a dual life cycle. They go through a stage that requires time in the insect parasite before they can be spread to a mammalian host. Wipe out the insect that carries it and it would wipe out the disease by removing a necessary environment for the disease's life cycle.

So, if werewolfism is like a blood born disease, it is like one that can't spread to insects.

Also, the evidence seems to be that it is a condition limited to humans (or possibly the humanoid races of HP). Although Rowling hasn't said specifically, animagi seem to be immune (or they're immune in animal shape).

Again, if I were to compare it to a disease, a werewolf is only infectious while transformed. This would be like other diseases that can only be transmitted during certain active stages although the carrier may remain permanently infected (herpes, malaria). In this case, the disease can also only be transmitted through a single vector, an actual bite (I assume a bite that breaks the skin, but Rowling hasn't specified). Again, this could be compared to a disease that, while it may remain alive in tissues in other forms, can only be transmitted through specific vectors and not others (although Muggle diseases don't usually limit themselves to only one).

Sirius was never completely down to a dog's intelligence in animal form. My guess is, in the precense of a female in heat, he would feel a much stronger urge than would be triggered in a human by pheremones but would still be able to control it.

Although magical beings seem able to interbreed and the most unlikely magical beasts interbreed, I think there would be strict biological limits on an animagus interbreeding. If there weren't, we'd see more creatures that are descended from animagi (even if only a small minority indulged, the results would add up).

That leaves three possibilities -

1) Animagi in animal form are sterile.

2) Animagi-animal crossbreeds are sterile (and possibly much more prone to being miscarried before birth).

3) Animagi-animal crossbreeds show little variation from the animal species and normally go unrecognized.

And, despite having typed all that, I've now got to go have dinner. Ick.

eir_de_scania From: eir_de_scania Date: May 23rd, 2005 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Or 4) Any *real* animal would figure out there was something not quite right with the animagus and refuse to mate with it. Contrary to what human males loves to believe, it's the female who decides who she wants to mate with. Especially among wild animals, but every dog- or horsebreeder I've met -quite a few - have some stories to tell! ;-)

And I doubt a female Animagus ever gets into heat, or whatever the correct term is! No, STOP thinking of Professor Mcgonagall like that!!!!

erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: May 23rd, 2005 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
interestingthought. soudns lieka god idea for a sf/fantasy story.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 3rd, 2005 08:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just a random thought on this thread regarding your werewolf-fleas issue. If the only way lycanthropy can be spread (according to HP anyway) is through the bite of a werewolf, then maybe it's actually transmitted via saliva?

-K (or DD if you prefer)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2005 10:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, there's a thought. Which kills a lot of snogging stories...!
danaedark From: danaedark Date: June 4th, 2005 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Maybe that's why Remus always seems sad. (Um, sudden weird image of using plastic lips to protect from saliva-borne lycanthropy.)
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