Our Goal | Challenge:
The parasitic jigger flea is one of the most severe health issues in Kenya. The Government has issued a national policy to guide the eradication of this health menace. More than 2 million people are infested, likely more than half of them children, who are out of school. This health issue can easily be prevented and managed with basic health care and access to footwear. Unfortunately in these impoverished areas, access to basic medical care and even clothing is scarce. The Mohsin & Fauzia Jaffer Foundation has made efforts on this front to fight the jigger menace.
What is a jigger?
It is a small pin head sized flea found in sandy terrain of warm, dry climates. It prefers deserts, beaches, stables, stack farms, and the soils and dusts in and around farms. It hides in the crevices and hairy cracks found on the floors, walls of dwellings and items like furniture. It feeds on their warm blooded hosts including man, cats, dogs, rats, pigs, cattle and sheep.
How it causes disease:
The impregnated female flea feeds by burrowing into the skin of the host skin under the toe or fingernails. As the flea continues to feed on the host’s blood it enlarges and forms a round sack full of eggs with the shape and size of a pea. The flea releases the eggs and is slowly sloughed from the host’s skin. Natural extraction of the egg sack or removal of the jigger with dirty pin or needle leaves a tiny pit in the skin which may develop into a sore. Heavy infestation of the results in toes filled with pus, which may lead to infection, inflammation, ulceration, fibrosis, lymphangitis, gangrene, loss of toenail, autoamputation of the digits and death. Sharing of pins and needles also spreads HIV.
Where jiggers attack:
Hands, feet, knees and other parts of the body.
To completely eradicate jiggers, the victims’ homes should be thoroughly fumigated. Animals that may be carrying the fleas should also be treated. Victims and their families should also be educated on the need to observe hygiene. Wearing shoes should be encouraged to ensure that the flea does not find entry into ones feet.
In infested areas, people should check their feet daily for freshly burrowing jiggers which are visible as small black spots which cause an itchy sensation. The fleas may also be deterred by an insect repellent applied to the skin-although walking barefoot in dirt quickly removes the repellent. Locating the jiggers’ hiding place and burning or spraying the said area with an insecticide would also help kill the jiggers.