Health concerns around flies

Dr Zuze Matters of Health
FLIES are not only a nuisance; they also pose serious health concerns and are responsible for spreading multiple killer diseases. Houseflies mainly spread infectious diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, protozoa and even worms.

There are over 100 disease causing organisms associated with flies and in most instances the fly acts only as a carrier.

Diarrhoeal diseases are some of the more common infections spread by houseflies. This includes bacteria such as E. coli, Shigella and campylobacter. These bacteria are found in the stool of people with these illnesses.

Some of the diseases spread by house flies include anthrax, cholera, conjunctivitis, diphtheria, dysentery, food poisoning, leprosy, trachoma, typhoid fever and tuberculosis.

The housefly spreads disease through several routes. It is attracted to food by its sense of smell. It cannot eat solid food so it vomits on solid food to make a solution which it then sucks up.

Adult flies delight in sputum, faeces, discharges from wounds and open sores. Mostly, disease causing organisms are spread on its body, through its mouth parts or through its vomit or faeces as the restless fly moves between food and filth. Houseflies also feed indiscriminately on a wide range of organic matter, from faeces to food (fruits, vegetables and meat). It is through this contact with the item it is feeding upon and even direct contact with people that disease causing agents are acquired and passed on.

Sometimes just a few micro-organisms are required to cause serious disease. The contaminated matter containing these organisms, and even just the organismitself that are acquired from one source may adhere to the fly or be passed out in its vomitus and faeces.

The contaminated matter and microbes are then passed onto food once the fly lands and feeds on it. The situation is further worsened if the food is not refrigerated allowing the microbes to multiply before the food is eaten.

Simple measures in and around the home can prevent flies from causing serious diseases. Proper waste disposal eliminates fly breeding sites and also limits contact between flies and disease causing organisms. Dispose of soiled adult and baby diapers properly. Consider alternatives for compost heaps which are good fly breeding sites. Open wounds, sores and infected eyes can serve as sources of infection. Cover food items during preparation and before eating.

House flies cannot be completely eradicated. Even the best efforts in the home will usually just reduce the fly population which can quickly return. In order to prevent diseases, the fly’s contact with people, food and eating utensils should therefore be prevented or interrupted.

Self-closing doors and screens over doors and windows are very effective in preventing flies from entering the home.

Even electric fans blowing air over a doorway can impede flies from entering the home.

When these measures are unable to stop flies entirely, then aerosol sprays and fly traps may be alternatives. Insecticide sprays kill some flies and repel others.

Fly traps will attract flies more than food does in the home and eventually kill them. A clean house with clean surroundings is the best answer to the fly problem.

So remember, these flies are actually deadly killers which we need to be wary of.