Myiasis (Maggot Infestation!)

Myiasis is the invasion of human tissue by the larvae of flies – i.e. maggots!! Flies deposit their eggs onto skin, the eggs hatch and the larvae burrows into deeper tissue and mature. Flies that are commonly implicated are the bot fly, the tumbu fly, the Lund’s fly and the new world screw worm fly.

The infestation can range from boils to creeping eruption to nodules.

Where does it occur?

This process can be seen worldwide, especially in animals. Human infestations are more common in tropical Africa, Mexico, and Central & South America.

How is it transmitted?

The illness is transmitted as the flies lay eggs on skin, through human skin contact with soil or sand that contain fly eggs and by mosquitoes which deposit bot fly eggs with their bites.

What is the risk for travelers?

There is a moderate risk for long term travelers to tropical countries who are engaged in extensive outdoor activities.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Symptoms usually develop 1-2 weeks after exposure

What are the signs and symptoms?

Signs and symptoms can vary from person to person.

Furuncular type: This is the most common type seen in travelers, a small 2-4 mm boil or nodule develops that is red and slightly inflamed and drains clear serous material.

Creeping Eruption type: In this type, one see a red spaghetti string like painful eruption that follows the track of the larvae as it migrates through the skin. The maggots are usually visible to the naked eye.

Opthalmic type: When the maggots are located on the eye one can see a small pimple like eruption or a spaghetti string like clear or reddish track along the white’s of the eye.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

The maggot can be extruded from the skin wound with forceps and examined under the microscope.

Is there any treatment?

The affected area of skin can be covered with Vaseline or petroleum jelly, which cuts off the oxygen supply, forcing the maggot to come out to the surface, where it can be removed. It can also be removed surgically.

Is the infected person contagious?

No, there is no person to person transmission of the illness.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Follow insect safety measures.

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