Friday, May 21, 2004

A few words on Sandflies

Sand Flies about a quarter size of a mosquito, they move faster, barely visible to the eye unless in full light and they don't usually attack in the daylight. I've seen them in closed quarters fly right through citronella candle smoke like it wasn't even there (don't burn citronella candles in closed quarters, not because of the smell or chance of asphyxiation but because it leaves black grime all over every smooth surface that's really unsightly). They're viscous, they don't take their fill in one place like mosquitoes, they come back again and again trying to find that perfect spot to bite. They love soft tissues of the ankle, undersides of the wrist, back of the hands and fingers but will generally bite you anywhere. Single flies have been known to bite sleepers over a hundred times in a single night (who in the hell did that study? Sadist! I would have squished the little bugger). It's not uncommon for my Marines to show up after walking to the shower once with 6 or more bites on their ankles because they forgot to wear bug repellent. They itch just like mosquito bites but without the big slow mosquito to squish. The thing the medical community is worried about is
Leishmaniasis, a parasite that is vector born by the sand flies, meaning it makes a circle from the sand fly to a host (us) grows into nice little macrophages which the sand fly laps up and takes to the next person. It causes weeping sores that do not heal which sometimes end up looking like little volcanos. A majority of the sand flies likely don't have the parasite but there have been 70 or so cases already reported coming out of the country which is actually a small number compared to how many people
that get bit. The numbers are probably higher but just aren't getting reported. So part of my job is to go around preaching the values of wearing DEET, yes it's smelly but it does keep them from biting. People come to me with bug bites and I ask them why aren't they wearing insect repellent and they say that they didn't have time, after a few nights of not being able to sleep because they itch so bad and can't get comfortable usually helps my message go through. Marines are still stubborn, but I'm getting fewer
patients with bug bites so I guess some of my preaching is working.

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