Archipelago

Rove beetle plague hits
Surabaya

The number of people suffering from skin irritations caused by the rove beetle (locally called tomcat) in Surabaya, East Java, has risen further, says Surabaya Health Office head, Esty Martiana Rachmie.

The number of patients recorded by local community health centers (Puskesmas) in the city has reached 149 people. “The majority of patients are from Putat Jaya subdistrict, with 30 people, followed by Kenjeran (24) and Siwalankerto (23). The number is likely to increase ollowing reports from Puskesmas in Sidoarjo and Gresik,” Esty said on Wednesday.

She said her office had urged every Puskesmas in Surabaya to provide first aid and counseling to patients complaining of severe skin irritation.

“Patients can get free medication by showing their ID cards,” she said.

Pest control companies are experiencing higher demand of up to 60 percent due to the rove beetle plague. The owner of a pest control company in Surabaya, Haksini Arifin Lasahido, said 76 clients had used his services in the past two weeks. Most of the clients live in upscale housing complexes, such as Graha Family, Damo Hills and Pakuwon City. On Tuesday alone, he received 12 orders to eradicate rove beetles in a number of areas in the city.

The rove beetle plague, which has affected hundreds of residents living along Surabaya’s east coast (Pamurbaya), is believed to be the result of damage to a mangrove forest, which was earlier declared a conservation area by the Surabaya municipality.

The matter was disclosed by Airlangga University’s Veterinary School dean and tropical disease
researcher Chairul Anwar Nidom on Tuesday.

“Since Surabaya lacks agricultural land, the habitat of the tomcat beetles is in the Pamurbaya mangrove swamps. The tomcat beetles have moved because their habitat has been damaged,” he said.

As was reported earlier, in the past week, residents living in the Pamurbaya area in Surabaya have been complaining of skin inflammation after coming into contact with rove beetles.

Dermatologist Jamillah said the number of patients with skin inflammation due to rove beetles had risen from the previous year.

The disease, called dermatitis contact irritant, affects humans when they come into contact with the beetles, especially when they crush the beetles and they release the pederin toxin.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Biological Research Center’s Entomology Lab head Hari Sutrisno said the beetle plague in Surabaya was nothing out of the ordinary as Malaysia, Australia, India, Brazil and Iran had experienced similar outbreaks in the past.

“A tomcat outbreak can happen anywhere, including Jakarta, not just in Surabaya,” said Hari.

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