Dancing on Ice judge Jason Gardiner revealed that he ‘feared for his life’ after a sand fly bit him and laid eggs in his leg. Gardiner had been bitten by the sand fly whilst on holiday in Belize.
The Caribbean countries of Belize and Honduras are notorious for their sand fly populations and travel pages frequently warn tourists to bring bug spray containing high concentrations of DEET.
Although sand flies can be found throughout the world it is the females of about 20 species of sand fly which transmit parasites that cause leishmaniasis, a disease that affects animals and humans.
Sand flies can also carry the Chandipura virus, which is a cousin of rabies. The Chandipura virus proved to be a deadly outbreak in India in 2010.
The symptoms of being bitten by an infected sand fly are similar to the flu; chills, fever, lethargy. Sand fly bites may leave large, red itchy bumps that may turn into a rash. These bumps are as itchy as mosquito bites, and tend to last longer. If you have travelled to a hot country and suspect you have been bitten by a sand fly seek medical advice immediately.
The sand fly is small and looks more like a mosquito than a house fly though varies from species to species. The adults are seen from April to September and are 10–11mm. Adults live on sandy riverbanks with an open habitat free of shading trees.
The body has a pale grey colour, eyes are bronze–brown, and legs are dark reddish–brown. The larvae can take up to two years to develop and lives in loose sand. In the pupal stage the larvae curls into a circle or “u” shape lasting one or two weeks.