Uganda’s Jigger problem: Doctors speak out on possible dangers.

Report by Charles Jjuuko and Muyinda Bruno

KAMPALA: March 2, 2019: About 10 schools in Njeru, a town council in Buikwe district bordering the source of River Nile have reported to have been infected with jiggers. The jiggers are said to be affecting children, teachers and local leaders.

Njeru however is not the only area in Uganda which has suffered from Tungiasis, a health situation caused by jigger infestation. Busoga region faced a similar challenge.

Am illustration of jigger life cycle. -INTERNET PHOTO

Dr. Simon Mpooya is an entomologist and a private community health specialist. He owns Dr. Ssubi Medical Centre. He talked to The Scribe News in an exclusive interview about the issue.

Jiggers (Tunga penetrans) is a small pin head sized flea that feeds on warm blooded hosts including man, cat, dogs, rats, pigs, among others.

Tungiasis is the morbid state of being infected by Jiggers. The female flea feeds by burrowing into the skin of the host, it enlarges and forms a round sack full of eggs with the shape and size of a pea.

“Once in the host skin”, Dr. Mpooya reveals, ” the flea will lead to intense inflammation of the affected area, cause itching, pain, and ulcers which may progress to ugly scaring of affected body parts”.

Dr. Moses Mulyowa is the executive Director of Mukono District Private Healthcare Providers Association supported Dr. Mpooya’s views adding that Jiggers can also cause abscess formation with bacteria invasion, deformations, loss of nails/ digits.

“Jiggers can also cause Tetanus while affectting the self-esteem of infected and affected individuals” Dr. Mukyowa warned adding that it can lead to reduced quality of life with resultant absence from work. He was speaking to Charles Jjuuko, a journalist with The Scribe News.

Why Tungiasis is a public health concern

Dr. Mpooya also highlights on the challenges of jiggers in the community saying Tungiasis mainly contributes to morbidity carrying a very low mortality; due to pain in the affected areas, carrying out normal duties such as walking normally, running or playing for the sake of children is hampered. This morbidity contributes alot to school dropouts and poor school performance.

Uniquely with Tungiasis is social stigmatization and low self-esteem exhibited by the affected.

Dr. Mpooya concluded

The speaker of Uganda Parliament, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga carried out a mass sentisation campaign in Kamuli district in 2008 which led to a reduction in Jigger cases there. This showed the country that jiggers can be eradicated.

According to Dr. Mpooya and Dr. Mulyowa, jiggers can be eradicated with improved sanitation. They told The Scribe News that jiggers breed in dusty floors and cracked walls andif these are removed, jiggers may not spread.