Maggots get under girl's skin

2004-04-02 09:32

Pretoria - Malaria is not the only health risk residents have had to face in the past few weeks - the fear of having mango-fly larvae burrowing under the skin has also reared its head.

An Eloffsdal couple, Yolandi and André Horn, got the shock of their lives recently when these larvae chose them and their 19-month-old baby, Anandi, as hosts.

The baby girl developed a high fever on Saturday and was rushed to a doctor. Both mother and baby had lumps on their bodies. A paediatrician at Femina Clinic diagnosed chickenpox and prescribed R400 worth of medication.

Yolandi Horn said that on Tuesday, however, she took herself to the Moot General Hospital because of severe back pain where the lumps were.

''When the doctor scratched the lumps open, she found the fly larvae,'' said Mrs Horn. By then, her husband also had lumps on his body. The couple squeezed out the larvae themselves.

Later, they saw something moving in their daughter's scalp. ''That night, a small, fat, yellow translucent worm crawled out of her head,'' said Mrs Horn.

The baby was taken to Kloof Hospital and a paediatric surgeon took at least 20 larvae from the child's body under anaesthetic.

Before this, however, they smeared the lumps with petroleum jelly, which caused them to crawl out of the skin. If they don't leave the host, they suffocate. However, those that Van Niekerk removed had either died or were too deep to crawl out.

According to a retired entomologist, Professor Erik Holm, the mango, or tumbu, fly is prevalent in the Lowveld. He said recent rains, causing damp conditions, could have caused its appearance in Pretoria.

''The fly lays its eggs on washing. When the clothing comes into contact with skin, the eggs hatch and the larvae bores into the skin.''

He said the larvae were not dangerous. However, the place where they entered the body could become septic and also leave a scar.