In warm climates, it is common to air dry clothes. Apart from saving energy, air drying is simple and cheap. If you have ever travelled in the tropics or gone on vacations or holidays in tropical areas of the world, the simplicity of life is striking. While others may use a line to hang their clothes, many place their clothes on any surface as long as they get dry. Clothes can be dried on bushes, on fences, on the grass and many places.
Despite all these advantages of air drying there are times that one gets unwanted hitch hikers on their clothes. These hitchhikers are so small that they are difficult to spot with the naked eye. They are meticulously placed in hidden places within the clothes, be it a shirt, t-shirt, pair of trousers, shirts or under garments. The eggs laid by a fly Cordylobia anthropophaga will hatch within the seams and the larvae will burrow into the skin of the person wearing the clothes.
Cordylobia anthropophaga, tumbu fly
Ironing clothes, destroys the eggs of the fly and paying particular attention when ironing the seams can be helpful.
Remember that these fly larvae do not only burrow into human skin but in animal skin as well including dogs and cats.
How do you know if you are infected?
So what happens when one is infected by the fly? A small pimple like growth appears, it is sometimes itchy but painful. The swelling grows by the day and so does the pain. Fever follows and in a few days, the larvae can be seen wiggling within the skin on the swelling as it comes to the surface to breathe. By covering the pimple with a plaster, adhesive tape or Vaseline blocks the air and this forces the larvae to come to the surface as it struggles to breathe.
At this point the larvae can be carefully squeezed out, just like when squeezing out a pimple. Careful attention should be taken so as not to burst the larvae to avoid infection. A successful squeeze results in a hairy wiggling larvae and a hole in the skin where the larvae was staying.
larvae of Cordylobia anthropophaga, tumbu fly
So next time you are out in the tropics remember to iron your clothes and beddings, so you don’t become a habitat for the hairy fly larvae.
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