The chiggers lives in soil and sand, and feeds intermittently on human skin. This orifice allows the chigoe flea to breathe and defecate while feeding on blood vessels in the cutaneous and subcutaneous dermal layer. In the next two weeks, its abdomen swells with up to hundreds of eggs and cause parts of the body such as the feet, the hands, buttocks, lips, and even the eyelids rot away.. The flea then dies and is sloughed off with the host's skin. Within the next three to four days, the eggs hatch and mature into adult fleas within three to four weeks inside human skin.
Infections are almost always on the foot of the host.As the flea's abdomen swells with eggs later in the cycle, the pressure from the swelling may press neighbouring nerves or blood vessels. Depending on the exact site, this can cause sensations ranging from mild irritation to serious discomfort.
Heavy infestations may lead to severe inflammation, ulceration, and fibrosis. Lymphangitis, gangrene, sepsis, the loss of toenails, auto-amputation of the digits, and death may also occur. Nonetheless, the risk of secondary infection is high. Tetanus is a common secondary infection that has reported associations with death.
"For the last three years I have been suffering from Jiggers. I lost two children killed by Jiggers," said a sixty year old Ugandan man. The disease killed at least twenty Ugandan people, and infected over twenty-thousand in the short time span of two months. Ministry of Health official in eastern Uganda writes, "It is common to find graves of families wiped away by Jiggers."
Unfortunately, the disease continues to spread throughout Africa and other continents by way of travel and trade. The Jiggers like to live in dirty and dusty areas, and can easily survive on ships and transport trucks. The Ugandan government set aside one-million US dollars to fight the growing epidemic. It requires topical medication and the removal of the insects.