The jiggers flea is rampant in Kenya and other African countries. It has always been present in Africa but in the past five years, infestation has become epidemic. Incidences of jiggers dropped when people started to wear shoes more frequently, but for an unknown reason, the number of infections started to increase again.
Johnstone Idaki first brought this problem to our attention in 2011. He spoke of the poor and their struggles with the disease and the community stigma and isolation. In addition, the National Government doesn’t recognize the problem.
Since starting this public health program in 2012, CNFA has treated 7000 patients infected with jiggers. These figures do not include 2015. Johnstone had travelled to 27 schools and treated the children infected there. Sometimes there are 4 or 5 children with jiggers, and other times, 200 out of 700 children have to be treated. Jiggers will travel to the brain and cause damage as well as making it nearly impossible to walk, work or eat. Malnutrition results and the body’s ability to repair itself becomes very limited.
I will tell you a story about the treatment a man with jiggers received at our clinic. He came to our clinic at Kigama with jiggers eating away his feet, elbows, and his fingers. Treatment started with washing his feet, elbows and hands with soap and water. He then placed his feet in a basin containing a solution of water and potassium permanganate. The solution was splashed on his body in the places wasn’t possible to soak. The solution is very effective and it kills the flea and its eggs. After air drying the soaked or washed body parts, a thin layer of Vaseline is spread over the treated areas, and the patient’s shoes are disinfected.
We went back to this man’s house and saw the appalling condition his home was in. All of his belongings were removed from the one room house and his friend mixed fresh cow dung with water and 2 scoops of soil with his bare hands. He then proceeded to cover the floor with the mixture again using his bare hands. Aggrey asked the man if he thought his friend was a nice man to do this. The patient replied “If he didn’t love me, do you think he would do this for me?”
Our patient’s clothes and his blanket were treated with disinfectant to kill the jiggers and the worst of his clothing was burnt. We left 2 bars of soap and his friend said he would ensure the rest of the clothing was washed the next day. A small amount of money was left for him to buy food. I couldn’t help wondering if I would do this for my friend. Would you?