Headlines

Health centers on alert
after rove beetle finding
in Jakarta

The rove beetle is here, but there is no need to panic, the local health agency says.

The Jakarta Health Agency said on Friday that it had readied community health centers throughout the capital to anticipate possible rove beetle outbreaks following reports that the insects were also found in South Jakarta and Bekasi.

“I have instructed 296 community health centers in the capital to stay alert. My message to city residents is not to panic,” agency head Dien Emmawati told The Jakarta Post.

Dien said that as of today there were no reports of rove beetle attacks on residents, though information was received that the insect was in several areas.

“Fortunately, the health centers haven’t had any cases related to rove beetle attacks,” she said.

 A worker at Warung Buncit, South Jakarta, reportedly found the beetle, which is locally known as tomcat, at his office on early Friday morning. The city’s Agency for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries was still examining the beetle.

On Tuesday, Syahidan, a resident of Lenteng Agung, also in South Jakarta, said that he had been bitten by the beetle on his feet. He said that the bite had caused continuous itching and burning sensations.

In Bekasi, rove beetle attacks have been detected since last year. Residents living at the Bekasi Jaya low-cost apartment said that the insects had attacked almost everyone staying in the building, tribunnews.com reported.

Previously, the beetle had attacked more than 50 residents in Pakuwon City’s residential areas in Surabaya, East Java.

The beetles, which commonly live in rice fields and trees, have allegedly invaded housing complexes due to losing their own habitats. There are 12 types of beetle, the toxins of which can cause skin irritations.

Gadjah Mada University pest expert Saputra blamed the tomcat attacks in a number of regions in Surabaya and later allegedly in
Yogyakarta on an extreme climate and environmental damage.

Conversions of rice fields into residential complexes and damage to mangrove forests due to illegal logging, he said, have forced tomcats, which prefer to live in humid areas, to enter people’s housing complexes.

The authorities in Yogyakarta have been investigating a potential outbreak of the beetles in the municipality, following 12 residents of Celeban Baru, Umbulharjo reporting skin rashes consistent with the allergic reactions that tomcats produce

According to Dien, people should refrain from killing the insects, as the latter produces toxins as their defense mechanism against predators.

The toxin can cause reddening of the skin and a burning sensation, followed by painful irritation and itching, with extensive pus-filled blistering of the skin after a few days. In severe cases, the affected areas remain irritated, blistered and sore for 10 days.

The disease, which is termed a “dermatitis contact irritant”, affects humans when they come into contact with the beetles, especially when they crush the beetles, which release the pederin toxin. “Just drive the insects away, but don’t kill them,” Dien said.

Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the Health Ministry’s director general for disease control and environmental health, said earlier this week that people infected by the toxin should immediately wash their hands and use antiseptic when the skin reddens. Dien said that people could visit the nearest health center for ointment to help reduce the itch and speed up the recovery.

How to avoid tomcats

* Clean the house and its surroundings from branched shrubs or wild plants that could become the beetle’s habitat

* Clean the furniture inside the house, such as towels, clothes and bed sheets, as beetles could also live there

* Use dimmer lights during the night, as excessive light attracts the beetles

* Close the window and the door to prevent the beetle from entering the house

* Use mosquito repellents to give maximum skin protection

* Should one have a direct contact with the insect, never crush it. Remove the beetle with paper or by blowing it carefully

* Should one be infected by the beetle, immediately wash hands and use antiseptic

* Don’t scratch the wound too often, as it will spread the toxin.

* Use antibiotic ointments to accelerate recovery

Source: The Health Ministry, Photo: National Geography, Padang Ekspres

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