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KAMPALA, Uganda – A disease whose progression and symptoms seem straight out of a horror movie but which can be treated has killed at least 20 Ugandans and sickened more than 20,000 in just two months.
Jiggers, small insects which look like fleas, are the culprits in the epidemic which causes parts of the body to rot. They often enter through the feet. Once inside a person's body, they suck the blood, grow and breed, multiplying by the hundreds. Affected body parts — buttocks, lips, even eyelids — rot away.
James Kakooza, Uganda's minister of state for primary health care, said jiggers can easily kill young children by sucking their blood and can cause early deaths in grown-ups who have other diseases. Most of those infected, especially the elderly, cannot walk or work.