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Those Darn Jiggers!

posted Feb 11, 2010, 4:01 AM by Reinoud Vaandrager   [ updated Feb 11, 2010, 4:25 AM ]
I knew there were jiggers in Cameroon, but I figured I would be lucky enough not to walk into them. (that always happens to other people right? ;)). So I was unpleasantly surprised yesterday that I had not 1 but 2 jiggers feasting on my left foots little toe and my right foots slightly bigger little toe.

For those who don't know what Jiggers are, here is the definition from

Jigger (or harvest mite): larval mite that sucks the blood of vertebrates including human beings causing intense irritation

Jiggers like to live on the dust on the ground you walk on and from there get into your feet and other parts of your body. And because it is currently the dry season in Cameroon, there are a lot of Jiggers around (especially in areas with domestic animals such as pigs, goats, chickens, etc.). describes it like this:

Young chiggers attach themselves to the skin of people, domestic animals, wild animals (including reptiles), poultry and birds. Once on the host, chiggers migrate to parts of the body where clothing fits tightly over the skin such as around the belt line, waistline, and under socks, or where the flesh is thin, tender or wrinkled such as the ankles, in the armpits, back of the knees, in front of the elbow, or in the groin.

So I guess I was lucky to have the jiggers on my toes, although they did like to burrow themselves beneath my toenails, making extraction more difficult. Normally Jiggers should itch very uncomfortably the first few days, but I didn't feel mine at all (I though I just had a splinter in my toe or something):

Chigger larvae do not burrow into the skin, nor suck blood. They pierce the skin and inject a salivary secretion containing digestive enzymes that break down skin cells that are sucked up.

Well, I don't know about American Chiggers, but the Cameroonian Jigger definitely burrows itself into your skin. It then feeds on your skin cells to feed the 30+ eggs the host contains. Apparently my Jigger was already 2 weeks old.

The way they remove them here is to take a small stick of bamboo, sharpen it and pierce the skin around the Jigger, once all the skin is removed and the Jigger is exposed it is fairly easy to pry it out (except for the last bit where the Jigger bites itself into your skin, so you have to pull a bit there). It is very important to get a Jigger out in one piece (and not pierce its egg sack) to avoid a secondary infection.

So without further ado, let's get to the nitty gritty part: Let me introduce my Jigger (Which I lovingly nicknamed "Mick") in a partially extracted phase on my little toe:

Little "Mick" taking a breath of fresh air, after being burroughed for 2 weeks under my toe nail :)

Little Mick sunbathing on a sheet of paper, during a well deserved holiday (away from my foot)

Since it will be the dry season at least until late March, I'll undoubtedly pick up a few more Jiggers along the way, but at least know I know how to spot and remove them, ...little bastards! :)