Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022
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Nairobi Flies: What Is The Skin Infection That Is Engulfing Sikkim University?

Nearly 100 students in Sikkim’s engineering college— Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology (SMIT) have been left infected by Nairobi flies, with one student having to undergo surgery to cure infection of his hand.

Image of Nairobi flies.
Image of Nairobi flies. Wikipedia

Around 100 students of an engineering college in Northeast India’s Sikkim suffered severe skin infections after coming in contact with Nairobi flies, officials said on Tuesday.

Nairobi flies are growing at a rapid pace at the campus of the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology (SMIT) in Majhitar, they said.

A student who was recently infected by the flies had to undergo surgery on his hand, they added.

The flies are not native but can overwhelm new areas in search of breeding grounds and ample food supply, Health Department officials said.

These flies usually destroy crops and eat pests, they said.

The college administration said that the infected students are undergoing medication and recovering.

Insecticides are being sprayed on the campus, and students are being made aware of the dos and don'ts to deal with the situation, it said.

What are Nairobi flies?

As the name suggests these flies are native of Kenyan capital Nairobi in eastern Africa, and hence the name Nairobi flies.

These flies are like dragon bugs. They are orange and black in colour, and thrive in areas with high rainfall, as has been witnessed in Sikkim in the past few weeks.

Like most insects, the beetles are attracted by bright light.

What precautions are needed to prevent burns from Nairobi flies? 

These flies do not bite, but if disturbed while sitting on anyone's skin, they release a potent acidic substance that causes burns.

The flies should be gently blown off and not disturbed or touched. The area where these flies sit should be washed with soap and water.

If they are squelched and end up leaving toxic fluids on the skin, care should be taken that unwashed hands do not touch any other part of the body, particularly the eyes.

Have Nairobi flies caused some outbreaks in the past?

There have been major outbreaks due to Nairobi flies in Kenya and other parts of eastern Africa in the past. 
In 1998, unusually heavy rain caused a large number of insects to come into the region. Outside Africa, outbreaks have happened in India, Japan, Israel, and Paraguay in the past.

(With PTI inputs)

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