INTRODUCTION: Tungiasis is an infestation caused by the penetration in the skin of the gravid female of the flea Tunga penetrans (T. penetrans). The current epidemiological situation of tungiasis in Eastern Africa is poorly known. We present the results of a cross-sectional study on tungiasis which was carried out in Qameyu (Northern Tanzania).
METHODOLOGY: Sixty-two schoolchildren with suspected cases of tungiasis were examined. Location, number, morphology and symptoms associated with T. penetrans infestation were recorded for each patient.
RESULTS: A total of 62 schoolchildren (38 males and 24 females), with ages ranging from 6 to 14 years, were examined. Sixty children were infested by T. penetrans. A total of 865 lesions were observed: 170 lesions were vital and 695 were non-vital. The first and the fifth toes were especially involved. The highest number of lesions observed in a single patient was more than 55 lesions. Pain was reported by 42 children, itching by 39 and difficult walking by 28. One child presented with fever which was considered to be caused by superinfected tungiasis. Complications were nail dystrophy (48 patients), deformity of the fingers or toes (12 patients), scarring (4 patients) and nail loss (4 patients). Thirteen children needed oral antibiotic therapy because of bacterial superinfections.
CONCLUSIONS: Tungiasis is a public health concern in this region of Tanzania and it is associated with high morbidity. Improvement in housing hygiene, confining domestic animals and increasing the knowledge of the disease via health education are measures that should be taken to control the disease.
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