A popular destination for African missionaries and relief workers, Uganda recently reported that during the past two months, 20 have died and over 20,000 have been infected with chiggers — small sand fleas that enter the body through broken

skin, usually the feet. Chiggers multiply rapidly under the skin, rotting not only the feet, but hands, buttocks, eyelids and lips as well. A secondary infection from opportunistic bacteria is usually the cause of death in those unfortunate enough to succumb to the parasite’s attack. According to Uganda’s Minister of State for Health Care, the vast majority of cases of chiggers in Uganda have been reported in the Busoga region, 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the capital city of Kampala; however, eleven other districts have also been affected. Chiggers usually affect children, the elderly, and the chronically ill, and thrive in poor hygienic conditions.

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The medical name for the parasitic disease is tungiasis. Although there is no way to immunize against chiggers, soap repels the small insects and applying petrol and paraffin kills infestations. Travelers should maintain vigilance and proper hygiene.


About The Author

Frank Gillingham, M.D. serves as Chief Medical Director for HTH Worldwide. Frank has led HTH Worldwide's international business development efforts in Europe and Canada and has been a guest speaker at international business conferences and has authored a series of articles on travel medicine, including pieces on travel information available on the Internet and the role of physicians working with travel insurers. Frank is a Board-Certified Internist and Emergency Medicine Specialist. He is also a private emergency physician in Southern California and a former emergency department director and member of the UCLA emergency department staff. Frank completed residency training at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, received his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania .

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