Nairobi Flies: All You Need to Know
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Recently, more than a hundred students of the Sikkim Manipal University in Sikkim suffered skin infections due to an insect known as the ‘Nairobi Fly.’

The first cases of Nairobi Flies came to notice around Majhitar and Mamring in East Sikkim in June. After wreaking havoc in Sikkim and North Bengal, Nairobi flies are slowly becoming a cause of concern for the state of Arunachal too, and at least one case is being reported every day.

According to health department officials, Nairobi flies are not native to the Northeast region of India, but they can overwhelm new areas in search of ample food supply and breeding ground.

What are Nairobi Flies?

Nairobi flies, also known as dragon bugs or Kenyan flies, are small beetle-like insects belonging to two species, Paederus sabaeus and Paederus eximius. They are black and orange and thrive in areas with heavy rainfall. This can probably be one of the reasons why so many cases of Nairobi flies are reported from the Northeastern states.

How do they affect humans?

Usually, Nairobi flies attack pests found in crops beneficial for humans. According to health officials, these flies do not bite, but if disturbed while sitting on anyone’s skin, a potent acidic substance called pederin is released that causes burns and rashes in the skin.

Pederin can cause rashes and irritation if it comes in contact with the skin, leading to unusual marks or lesions or colouring on the skin. It usually takes a week or two for the skin to heal, but in some cases, secondary infections can occur if the victim scratches the irritated skin.

Have there been outbreaks of the disease?

Yes, there has been a major Nairobi Flies outbreak in Kenya and other parts of eastern Africa. Apart from Africa, major outbreaks were reported in Japan, Paraguay, Israel and India in the past.

How to protect yourself from Nairobi flies?

The first thing to keep in mind is never to brush off, disturb or touch the fly if it lends on your body to minimise the chances of pederin release. Sleeping under a mosquito net can also provide some amount of protection from these flies.

In case a fly sits on your body, immediately wash that area with soap and water. If the fly is crushed and ends up leaving toxic fluids on the skin, make sure that your hands do not touch any other part of the body, especially your eyes.

Also read: Nairobi flies reach Arunachal after infecting scores in Sikkim, North Bengal


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