Tungiasis is an infection caused by a parasitic flea prevalent in developing countries with tropical weather. The chigoe flea prefers a warm-blooded host, usually humans to feed and reproduce.
The fleas dwell in areas that have pebbles and sand, typically beaches or houses without concrete foundations. An infection arises once an individual walk through sand without shoes or sleeps outside the house when the flea attaches and burrow into the skin.
What are the signs?
The typical indications of tungiasis include:
- Yellowish or brownish lesions or lumps with a middle black spot
- Intense itchiness and rashes around the lesions
- Swelling and inflammation around the lesions along with pain at the site of the lesions
- Serious infection can lead to necrosis or death of the skin tissues
Management of tungiasis
The treatment for tungiasis requires removal of the parasitic flea using a fine sterile needle.
At the present, there is no available drug that can eliminate the parasite or vaccine available in preventing infection from developing. In case a bacterial infection arises, antibiotics are prescribed by the doctor.
There are some preventive measures that can help in preventing tungiasis such as:
- Avoiding or limiting exposure to infected livestock.
- Always wear shoes when walking outdoors and avoid direct exposure to sand and pebbles.
- Sleep indoors and not on bare soil or ground
- Get rid of pebbles and sand from inside or around the house and opt for a concrete foundation if possible
What is the outlook?
If not properly treated, the parasite might cause the formation of a lesion with rashes, itchiness and inflammation for up to 2 weeks. The parasite will eventually die, and the lesion clears.
Remember that re-infection is likely to occur. Proper precautions must be observed to lessen the chances for re-infection.
If tungiasis is treated, the parasite can be removed, and the symptoms generally settle within a few days. On the other hand, re-infection can still occur if the parasites are still present in the environment.