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The fight against jigger infection continues

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Failure to offer public health awareness regarding jiggers could be the reason why the condition remains a threat to not only in Kenya but globally.

The flea burrows into various parts of the body where it feeds on a person’s blood: Photo / Courtesy

Jigger invasion is caused by an impregnated female sand flea whose scientific name is Tunga penetrans.

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The flea burrows into various parts of the body where it feeds on a person’s blood.

It grows and lays eggs that can cause pus-filled sores. The main cause of jiggers has been attributed to poor hygiene and poverty.

Finger nails, toes, knees, lips, ankles, elbows, palms, eyelids, and buttocks are the most affected parts of the body by the jigger.

National jigger day

In March 03, 2015, the office of the president in Kenya lead by the first lady Margaret Kenyatta established a national jigger day to create awareness against jiggers.

During the event, the government declared that March 3 of every year will be marked as jiggers’ day.

This was the first health awareness day not initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the country.

It is estimated that about 2.6 Million Kenyans in 24 counties are seriously infected with jiggers.

Most of these counties are in Mt. Kenya region, Western Kenya, Rift Valley and coastal region.

Treatment

The fight against jiggers in Kenya has been strengthened mostly by anti- jigger lobby, Ahadi Kenya Trust.

The organization recommends the following procedure in the treatment for jigger:

  • First, when administering treatment to someone else ensure that you wear gloves.
  • Wash affected areas with clean water and soap.
  • If the affected areas are the toes or the fingers, cut the nail of the toes or the hand with a nail cutter or a razor blade.
  • Then soak the affected area in a Potassium Permanganate for 15 minutes.
  • Potassium Permanganate should be mixed in the ratio of one table spoonful is to five litres of clean water.
  • Allow the affected area to dry off naturally.
  • Finally apply petroleum jelly or oil to soften the skin.
  • Repeat the above procedure three times a day for two weeks.
Jigger statistics

In 2014, African Population and Health Research Centre and Charite University Medicine in Berlin Germany carried out a research on jiggers.

They discovered that the chemical dimeticones weakens the parasite within three days and later, after a week, it dies.

The chemical was found to be more than twice as effective as potassium permanganate. This can be used as an alternative treatment for jigger.

Removal of jiggers using a needle or a pin can be another way for eradication but this has the potential to cause infections especially if the tools are shared.

Additionally, if the pin and the needle are not clean, they can leave a tiny pit in the skin which may result into an aching sore.

Therefore, these item should not be shared and should be clean prior to use.

Precautions

To control jiggers, we are good to trace where the parasite originate from and fumigate with a suitable insecticide.

Animals and livestock that have fleas should be treated and shouldn’t be kept very close to households.

Daily check for those in highly infested areas should be carried out for freshly burrowing jiggers. Repellent oil to the skin can as well be applied to keep the fleas away.

It is also advisable to avoid staying or walking bear footed and instead wear well covered shoes that prevent entry of the fleas.

Personal hygiene is the most paramount way to stay away from jiggers.

By Joseph Macharia

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