This may look like an ordinary, harmless clothesline draped with drying laundry. In fact it’s a breeding ground.
The female tumbu fly loves nothing more than laying her eggs in wet laundry. It’s the tumbu fly equivalent of a safe suburban neighborhood with good schools for the kids.
The children in question are tumbu fly larvae, and they like to spend their formative days nestled cozily in your towels, trousers and underpants.
These little fly kids are very sensitive to heat and vibration. When you slip on your sun-dried drawers, they get to work right away, burrowing painlessly under your skin in less than a minute.
This soon produces a prickly, itchy boil, inside of which the developing tumbu fly incubates for up to 12 days. The fly breathes through its tiny rear end, which you can see at the head of the boil, if you look very closely.
If you’re patient, your foster fly child will eventually grow up and want to get a place of its own. One day it will fall out of the boil and get on with its brief, annoying life.
But if you’re impatient, as most people with fly larvae living inside them would naturally be, you can turf the little freeloader out right away.
Simply spread vaseline on the boil, which cuts off the fly’s oxygen supply. Small indignant bubbles will appear, and then the suffocating larva will start to work its way out. You can speed its departure with some helpful squeezing. (Though if you don’t squeeze properly, you can develop a big abscess and end up under the knife of Dr. Ahmed or Dr. Sam).
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the good news is that you can prevent this whole nasty business by vigorously ironing both sides of every piece of cloth that comes near your body. Socks, sarongs, skivvies, the works. The hot iron cooks the little fellas where they lie.
Here in Kindamba, we have Mama Thérèse and her well-toned ironing arm to thank for the fact that we are not covered in itchy, prickly pustules. Matondo!
(Written with help from the 21st terrifying edition of Manson’s Tropical Diseases — 2000 pages of raw horror that will send you bolting for the next flight to some polar ice cube where you can’t get whatever that is on page 519)