Around 100 students of an engineering college in East Sikkim have reported skin infections after coming in contact with Nairobi flies.
What are Nairobi flies?
Nairobi flies, also called Kenyan flies or dragon bugs, are small, beetle-like insects that belong to two species, Paederus eximius and Paederus sabaeus.
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.
These flies do not bite, but if disturbed while sitting on anyone’s skin, they release a potent acidic substance that causes burns.
This substance is called pederin, and can cause irritation if it comes in contact with the skin, leading to lesions or unusual marks or colouring on the skin.
The skin begins to heal in a week or two, but some secondary infections can occur, especially if the victim scratches the irritated skin.
The main preventative measures to reduce contact with Paederus rove beetles include the use of bed nets, long-sleeve clothing and avoiding sitting under lights at night.
If a beetle does land on your skin it should be blown or gently brushed off and not crushed. If your skin does come into contact with juices from the beetles, wash the affected area 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.