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While You're Away: Myiasis

This topic is a bit disgusting. Myiasis is an infection of the skin caused by the larvae of certain flies which are present in the tropics. Different flies are responsible in different geographic areas. The two main species are Dermatobia hominis (the human botfly) in South and Central America, and Cordylobia arthropophga in Africa. Both of these can also infect animals such as cattle. Most of the infections I have seen in Canadian travellers have originated in the rainforests of Costa Rica and Belize.

flyThe eggs of the fly manages to get attached to the underside of a female mosquito, and penetrates the unbroken skin when the mosquito feeds. It may also be possible for these eggs to be deposited on clothing or towels left out to dry, and then rubbed into our skin. At the site of penetration, a boil-like lesion develops fairly rapidly. It may be a bit red and tender. People often complain of transient, shooting pains in the lesion, as if there is something moving inside. There is! A tiny opening is usually visible at the top, through which the little maggot gets 7zhis or her air.

Getting rid of these things is the most fun. While it is always tempting to make a small incision and cut it out, this is not usually the wisest decision. There are ways to entice the little critter out, and most of these ways involve suffocation! Try occluding the little air hole with vaseline overnight, and you might see him wriggling at the opening. It can then be grasped with tweezers and gently extricated. Peanut butter might also work.

larvaThe most popular and successful method in my experience is to cover the opening with raw bacon, and wait. It might not be immediately successful. This method might not be appropriate for Orthodox Jews or Muslims! If so, try the vaseline. When all else fails, just good old squeezing it out will usually work , though it might be a little bit uncomfortable.

So don’t spend your time worrying about this one. But use your insect repellents, shake out your towels, and iron your clothing. And if you do end up with one of these things, take it out, and send it to me. I have a little museum!

If you would like to watch a video of me removing a botfly, go to You Tube. Not recommended just before lunch!

Content (c) Mark Wise
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