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Blister beetles causing distress in Kakkanad

Over 100 people develop blisters on face and body caused by release of toxin Paedrin by the beetle

Blister beetles are causing distress in Kakkanad area with close to 100 people developing blisters on face and other parts of the body.

The number of panic-stricken patients seeking medical help after spotting the blisters has increased over the past few weeks. The reports of the spread of black and white fungus infections in the post-COVID situation has added to the fear of patients, according to medical practitioners.

The toxin, Paedrin, released by the blister beetle causes the burn sensation. The health condition caused by the toxin is called Paederus dermatitis or blister beetle dermatitis, said Dr. Joseph Chalissery, dermatologist of the Cooperative Hospital, Kakkanad.

Significant number of such cases were reported during the lockdown period last year when around 200 patients turned up at the hospital between May and June. This time, around 100 such cases have been reported, he said.

The blister needs to be clinically differentiated from the serious diseases like herpes zoster and other fungal and contact dermatitis. Clinical diagnosis is carried out to find out the cause of the blister. Antibiotic cream and oral antibiotics and topical steroids may be needed in some cases, said Dr. Chalissery.

George Mathew, former scientist of the Forest Health Division of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, said the insects were commonly found in buildings located along the forested areas and rubber plantations where fallen leaves were left to decay. The insects breed on the surface layer of soil where the leaves decay during rainy season. The insects display an aggregation behaviour. At night, they would move to light sources. They are found in the wooden and tile roofing of old buildings, said Dr. Mathew.

The insects usually breed during rainy season. The identification of the breeding points is important to control the population of the insect. Once the source is spotted, the insects can be destroyed by using some soil pesticides. In houses and other buildings, the insects can be trapped using sticky traps. Mechanical collection of beetles using a vacuum cleaner and killing the beetles by application of kerosene is recommended, he explained.

Sticky traps may be set up on the roof of buildings so that the insects get entangled in it. Use of sticky glue at specific locations on the roof has also been suggested, he said.

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