For months, Rena Caines says that she's been looking forward to her vacation to Dominica; however, what she thought would have been a time of relaxation was quickly turned into one of her most dreadful trips ever.

"This was the worst experience I had," she stated. "From the moment I got there, there were these tiny black insects all over my arms and legs. Honestly, they left my leg and arms with small sores. It's terrible; they need to do something about this immediately."

Her call is one of many from citizens and visitors to Dominica who have been grappling with an unexpected and distressing issue – an invasion of biting midges.

This new menace to society has not only left visitors with painful memories but has also significantly impacted the lives of the local residents. Outraged citizens are now urging the Government to take immediate action to address the escalating situation.

Elie Fontaine, who used to cherish evenings on her porch with her husband, now finds herself confined indoors due to the relentless attacks of these "new menaces of society."

"In the evenings, that's when it's worse for us," the 68-year-old Castle Comfort resident stated. "We often have to find ourselves indoors, with a fan blasting at full speed, and even then, those little blood suckers still find a way to pester us."

A similar experience was also shared by a Dominican attorney at law in the United States, Gabriel Christian, who says that he was "slaughtered" in the Layou Valley area by the pest back in June when he came home to bury his Aunt, the late centenarian Floss Christian.

"I had lesions on my legs for two weeks," he said. "I grew up in Dominica, and the only place I knew with some sand flies was in the Portsmouth area. However, there is a vicious type of sand fly on Dominica that I personally experienced, and it must be addressed urgently. This has now taken up epidemic proportions."

Tourism affected too

The outcry against the insect extends beyond just visitors and residents. Frustrated individuals have been vocal about the lack of action from public health authorities.

One disillusioned citizen lamented, "I can't believe public health is ignoring this issue. In March, I came home, and those flies ruined my vacation. The marks never went away. I just came back from Jamaica, and nothing like that. So Dominica is the problem by not doing anything about their pest problems."

The severity of the situation is clear, with reports of persistent bites, itching, and lasting lesions. Another disgruntled vacationer shared, "I have advised family and friends who were thinking of going to Dominica for the festival to think again."

The impact of the pest goes beyond mere physical discomfort. One resident poignantly said, "This has changed people's social life, and it's just ignored. Just imagine broad daylight; you are housebound under sheets with a fan every day for months to spare yourself from sandflies. On top of things, you can't leave and sit on your porch or enjoy any outside social life during the day."

Do something, please

The nuisance of the tiny blood-sucking organisms has sparked concerns among citizens, leading to demands for government intervention in fumigation. While attempts to speak to the necessary officials proved futile, the Chief pharmacist at Jolly's Pharmacy, Carlton Languedoc, points out that traditional fumigation methods using chemicals like malathion, commonly used to control mosquitoes, are ineffective against biting midges.

"So many people have been asking why the ministry hasn't fumigated using the similar chemicals that would have been used to prevent dengue, but that doesn't work," he said. "These microorganisms are around, and it's sad to say that all we can do for the time being is just to protect ourselves."

Languedoc informed The Sun that the biting midges, often mistaken for sand flies, are minuscule arthropods that thrive in various environments and are commonly found around pets, livestock, and wildlife, making them a part of the ecosystem.

According to him, the surge in biting midges activity during the fruit season, where they feed on rotten fruits and plant nectar, adds another layer of complexity to the issue.

The health professional revealed that despite their annoyance, biting midges are not known to transmit diseases to humans, and their bites primarily cause skin irritation due to the release of histamine upon contact.

To mitigate the effects of midge bites, he recommended wearing long clothing using citronella candles and bug spray, which can help repel them.

For individuals with sensitive skin, antihistamine medicines that block histamine that causes the allergic reaction can offer relief from itching and swelling, Languedoc highlighted.

"You could use anything like Loratadine, Puritan, Benadryl, any of these, whether it's in tablet form, whether it's in liquid form or even the cream form will help," he said.

"In some cases, doctors may prescribe Betnesol-N, another steroid, Betamethasone mixed with Neomycin, an antibiotic. Sometimes they use a mild corticosteroid with an antibiotic to apply on the skin, one that would alleviate the itching, reduce the swelling, and heal the bumps and the broken skin that a patient would have," the lead pharmacist added.

-By Ronda Luke