Thursday, February 18, 2010

Adventures in tropical medicine: Jigger extraction

A warning: this post is not for the squeamish. If my 'The eggs had eyes' dispatch from June 2009 made you want to throw up, don't read this.

Years ago, when traveling in Zanzibar with my friend Justine, she became obsessed with the Lonely Planet. While on the beach, she read the entire health section without speaking. It was not a good sign. I remember her reading out loud about jiggers, how you dig them out with a pin, and that their under-the-skin nesting "could be prevented by wearing thongs." Not the underwear--the shoes. I've been wearing flip-flops obsessively ever since.

Perhaps because of this early intervention, I've not yet gotten jiggers (NB: I'm probably jinxing myself right now). I've heard people who had them describe going to their Indian doctor to have him dig them out with pins, how "you could see their eyes." No thank you.

So when it looked like Nate had jiggers over the weekend, we spent a few days trying to observe. Three days later, we decided he did. I knew what to do. We got a bottle of Pichu and cotton balls, the needle from my sewing kit, sterilized his Swiss Army knife scissors and I went to work. I like this kind of thing.

After I finished, pleased with my bush doctoring, Nate found another one. The second extraction was cleaner and more surgical than the first. The female jigger lays eggs by attaching to toes (or other things, I assume), burying her head beneath the skin or nail and dropping eggs. The flea starts to resemble a queen termite, all soft and larval, which is how I gummed up the first attempt and had to dig around Nate's toe with a needle, being sure to extract the whole thing. The second time, I dug out around the insect and popped it out.

Satisfying, but let's hope we don't have to do that too many times again. In Kenya, one organization has jigger help and counseling centers in five districts and lists time lost to extracting jiggers as a problem that limits work productivity. I think I prefer to wear thongs.

1 comment:

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