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Putzi Fly (The African Tumbu Fly)

Diagnosing and (hopefully) Avoiding the Putzi Fly

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Rural Africa
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The Putzi Fly (Tumbu Fly), Cordylobia anthrophaga, is common in East and Central Africa. It lays eggs in clothes hanging out to dry and upon contact with human skin the eggs hatch. The larvae burrow into the skin and develop into fully grown maggots if left to their own devices. The unfortunate human host develops multiple boil-like sores, usually on the backs of arms, around the waist, back or bottom. The medical name for this condition is Myiasis.

Once discovered putzis are easily removed. A dab of Vaseline followed by a good squeeze will do the trick. The Vaseline stops the maggot from being able to breathe and out it pops. Unfortunately for some, myself included, the tropics can cause many a strange sore to mysteriously appear so an immediate correct diagnosis isn't always going to happen. The larvae that burrowed in to my back as a young girl and teen had a grand old time. They were undiagnosed for so long they grew to be a few inches long and what they finally left behind, once extracted, wasn't a pretty sight. It was also quite painful.

To avoid becoming the host of Putzi fly offspring, the simple solution is to iron all your clothes (including underwear). The heat of the iron kills the eggs. This isn't always possible while traveling so dry your clothes inside to avoid the putzi flies laying their eggs in them.

For more details on the larvae stage see the Merck Veterinary Manual.

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