Over 100 students from the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology (SMIT) as well as others from neighbouring Rangpo- Singtam axis in East Sikkim have been reporting infections related to Blister Bee Dermatitis, also known as Nairobi Fly Dermatitis.
Around 8-10 cases are being reported at the Rangpo Public Health Centre (PHC) daily.
Nairobi fly is the common name for two species of rove beetle in the genus Paederus, native to East Africa. The beetle contains toxic hemolymph known as pederin, which can cause chemical burns if it comes into contact with skin and burns. The Nairobi fly is sometimes referred to as a dragon bug. The symptoms include skin inflammation, rashes and blisters in severe cases.
The rash usually affects body parts not covered by clothing; healing time ranges from 7 to 28 days, usually with permanent skin discolouration.
A local guardian of a student at SMIT, stated, “Nairobi fly is reportedly spreading in and around SMIT campus like wildfire and has already infected almost one hundred students with its poisonous acid, among which one had to undergo a minor hand operation. I am getting around 8-10 cases per day from areas around Duga, Tamatar, IBM etc around Rangpo at Rangpo PHC. I learned about the cases at SMIT on June 30. I stay in the SMIT staff quarters, and there are few cases in that area, but one staff member has been infected so far. But almost 60 students from SMIT boys hostel have been infected by Nairobi Fly Dermatitis, is what I came to know. I consulted with some people there.”
A local doctor from Rangpo, stated, “I have been in the profession for 10 years, and according to my experience Nairobi Fly infections have been reported over the years, but this year the cases have drastically increased. The beetle breeds in mushy areas, and SMIT boys hostel is along the riverside, and maybe the cases are more there because the Nairobi fly breeds on mushy and humid areas.”
The doctor informed the infection is not fatal and treatable with oral treatments. “The beetle, like any other insect/bug, is attracted to light, urging people to use dim lights at night. The beetle does not bite or sting, but the burn is caused when the beetle is slightly or completely squashed.”
The preventive measures include typical anti-vector precautions, including bed nets, long-sleeve clothing, and avoiding fluorescent lights. If the beetles are found on the skin, brushing them off, rather than crushing them, avoids producing dermatitis and spraying pesticides from time to time.