The health risks of the humble fly

Summer is in full swing, and so are the Flies

We all know that flies are a nuisance, particularly at certain times of year, but people aren’t quite as aware of the risks of diseases from flies.

Flies can become contaminated with more than 100 different pathogens that cause human disease. Perhaps not that surprising given that they hatch in and feed on, excrement, garbage and many types of decaying organic matter.

As they fly between contaminated and clean surfaces flies can transfer these pathogens.

The extent to which the pathogens can be transmitted to people (that lead to the development of disease) is still a matter of scientific debate. However, there is strong evidence that flies play a role in certain infections.

Fly diseases

The illnesses that flies can transfer include:

  • Salmonella – symptoms include diarrhoea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
  • Shigellosis, also known as bacillary dysentery – symptoms range from mild abdominal discomfort to full-blown dysentery characterized by cramps and diarrhoea.
  • E.coli – although most strains are harmless, some can cause serious food poisoning.
  • Cryptosporidium protozoa – which can cause gastrointestinal illness with diarrhoea in humans.
  • Bacteria resistant to a number of antibiotics.
  • The eggs and cysts of various roundworms and flatworms.
  • Myiasis, the infestation of human or animal tissue with fly larvae, often from eating food contaminated with maggots.

Protecting against fly disease

You can keep flies away by taking some preventative measures such as:

  • covering food or keeping it in sealed containers
  • cleaning up liquid spillages immediately
  • making sure dustbins have tightly sealed lids
  • cleaning up after your pet

To help get rid of flies there are a wide variety of DIY products available such as fly papers, sprays and plug-in solutions. However, if you think you have a more serious problem you will need professional advice and targeted treatment for larger or re-occurring infestations.


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