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Dr Deborah Mills MBBS ASM

Occasionally a traveller in Africa or South America returns home or even sends a horrified email as they have found a small ‘thing’ or maggot in a wound. This is a fly larva or ‘baby’ fly. The medical name for this condition is Myiasis

The regions that travellers catch this are Africa and South America. The fly behaves slightly differently in each part of the world i.e. lays its eggs in different places. The larva penetrates the skin (some can even go through clothes on the way! ) Once the larva gets in, a sore develops which as a small pimple and evolves into what looks like a boil. There may be some pain associated with it.

maggot There is usually only one larva per ‘boil’, but many travellers have several boils as they catch a few at a time. The larva makes a tiny breathing hole in the skin and if you cover the hole, the larva may come out. Sometimes you need to carefully remove the larva. Once the larva has gone, the wound will heal without problems. Treat as per the wound guidelines.

Incidentally if you did not kill it, the larvae develop to maturity (e.g. for D hominis over a period of 5-10 weeks.) When mature, they emerge from the host, fall to the ground, and pupate. The adult fly emerges several weeks later.

Place South America Africa
Infesting fly Human botfly Tumbu fly
Medical name Dermatobia Hominis Cordylobia anthrophaga
How you catch it Flies lay eggs on an insect e.g. mosquito. Tiny larva hatches and enters through skin after the mosquito bite Flies lay eggs on clothing or earth. Larva hatch out and enter skin when wear clothes or skin in contact with earth.
How to prevent it Use mosquito repellent to stop insects biting Iron clothes or dry clothes away from flies
Cover breathing hole with Apply animal fat Apply mineral oil
Cut it out? You may need to gently remove it surgically but care must be taken not to pierce the larvae

Author of the book, Travelling Well, Brisbane based Dr Deborah Mills works with organizations that want invincible expatriate personnel – and with people who want to enjoy good health when they travel.


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