Ronna Nirmala & Amir Tejo
The Jakarta city administration assured its residents on Wednesday that the recent rove beetle outbreak affecting East Java would not impact the capital.
“We have conducted a survey in the field and from our observations, Jakarta is safe from tomcat attacks,” Jakarta maritime and agriculture chief Ipih Ruyani said, referring to the insect by its popular name.
The beetle looks similar to an ant, but it has a more elongated body with orange and black striations. The fluid it excretes contains paederin, which can cause rashes or blisters within 24 to 48 hours of contact with the skin.
Ipih said Jakarta had readied 44 health centers just in case the outbreak reached the capital.
“If anyone is affected, they can come to community health centers in their respective subdistricts because we have prepared remedies to treat blisters from the bug’s toxin,” the Jakarta official said.
The attacks were first reported in the East Java capital of Surabaya, where 149 cases had been recorded as of Wednesday.
Budi Rahaju, the chief of the East Java health office, said the bug was not new to people living in the countryside, where it has long been known as larongeni .
But the insects began attacking city dwellers for the first time af ter being driven from their habitat by property developers, he said.
Budi said his office would work to dispel rumors saying the tomcats were lethal.
“Treatment for [the rashes] is readily available at drugstores,” he said, adding that salves containing antibiotics such as tetracycline or chloramphenicol should reduce the blistering.
For extreme symptoms, Budi suggested using salves that contain corticosteroids.
Those who do come into contact with the bugs are advised to thoroughly rinse the affected skin under flowing water, scrub it with soap and wipe it with an antiseptic solution. A cold compress can prevent blisters from spreading.
Yogyakarta and the East Java town of Sidoarjo have also reported rove beetle attacks.
Dwi Isniati, a midwife living in Kureksari village in Waru, Sidoarjo, said her three-year-old granddaughter Strawberie was among the village residents suffering from the bug attacks.
“Last night, her temperature was high and soon she felt itchy all over her skin,” Dwi told state news agency Antara.
Insects were also reported on Wednesday attacking at least 12 residents of Celeban village in Umbulharjo subdistrict, Yogyakarta .