Health ministry cautions residents against Nairobi fly infection

Rajesh Rai and Nima Wangdi

Phuentsholing town reported its first dengue case for the year on July 6 after a 47-year-old man tested positive.

Although the man has recovered, many said that this could be just the beginning of dengue outbreak in the bordering town.

Given the monsoon season with periodic rain and heat, residents fear an outbreak is possible.

An official from Phuentsholing hospital said they have not received many fever cases yet.

“But the risk is high.”

Meanwhile, health officials have carried out a vector survey to find dengue mosquitoes and destroyed all indoor breeding sites.

Fogging was also done in the index building.

Survey teams were continuously deployed in the field to ensure there are no residual cases and vectors.

In 2019, Phuentsholing saw the highest number of dengue positive cases.

The outbreak that started on July 5, 2019 continued until November. By mid-November, Phuentsholing had seen 4,300 dengue positive cases. Eight people died, including two maternal deaths due to dengue.

According to health officials, there is a need to strengthen community participation in cleaning campaigns to destroy breeding sites and keep surroundings clean.

People are also advised to destroy outdoor breeding sites, including tyres. Indoor water collections like fridge, flower pots, and containers are also potential breeding sites.

Health officials advise people to wear full sleeves and use mosquito nets at home.


Nairobi Flies update

Phuentsholing hospital reported a total of 278 cases of   infection by beetle dermatitis (Nairobi flies).

The first case was reported on June 27.

This week, the hospital has seen a drastic decline in the number of cases. Only two to three cases were reported.

With more than 315 cases of Nairobi fly infections reported in the country as of date, health ministry has cautioned the people. Health centres recorded the cases as people came seeking treatment. 

Going by the current situation, people living in Phuentsholing and Samtse have been infected. The ministry’s notice is mainly to residents living along the southern areas. 

People are advised to wear long sleeve clothes and trousers, close windows, use bed nets, dim lights, avoid going out in the evening, and keep houses clean.

Nairobi fly infection cases have also been reported from many districts of North Bengal including Darjeeling and neighbouring Sikkim in India. Hundreds of students in Sikkim were reported to have been infected. 

There are no history of the Nairobi flies seen in Bhutan. The health ministry officials were not available to confirm it. 

What is Nairobi fly and its infection?

Nairobi flies are native to East Africa and they are known as Kenyan flies or dragon bugs. The small beetle-like insects are orange and black and are usually found in areas with high rainfall.

Bright lights and moist areas attract them. They usually destroy crops and eat pests. According to sources, Nairobi flies do not bite or sting. However, if disturbed while sitting on anyone’s body, they release a potent acidic substance that causes burns. The toxin causing these burns is called pederin.

Pederin is produced by symbiotic bacteria that live inside the Nairobi flies. The fluid released by these bugs can cause unusual burns, dermatitis or lesions on the skin. Pinhead-sized blisters could erupt in 24 to 48 hours filled with a yellowish fluid.  But these usually dry out and don’t leave scars. 

Internet sources stated that more severe cases could happen if the toxin is more widespread over the body and could cause fever, nerve pains, joint pains or vomiting. “If the toxins come in contact with person’s eyes, it can cause conjunctivitis and potentially temporary blindness.” 

Nairobi fly infection treatment

Health ministry advices the people to wash the affected area immediately and apply wet and cold compress. “Sever cases are treated with antibiotics, steroid, and antihistamines.” 

The fly must gently be blown away if found sitting on the body. The fly sensing any threat would lead to releasing of the potent acidic substance.

International health experts say that there is nothing to panic since the infection can be easily treated.