House flies can cause a huge threat to businesses, especially those operating within the food industry. Compared to other pests such as rodents and cockroaches, flies are responsible for causing the highest number of staff illnesses. But why is this?
Well, house flies (along with other species of filth flies) are known to spread a range of harmful diseases. The World Health Organization estimates that house flies are responsible for transmitting at least 65 diseases. These diseases can have an impact on both customer and staff health, resulting in damages to income, brand reputation and staff retention.
What are house flies?
House fly, Musca domestica, is a species of the Muscidae family. It is believed that house flies originated from the Middle East during the Cenozoic era, and have since spread across the globe.
A female house fly will only mate once and stores the sperm for later usage. She will lay eggs in batches of 100 in decaying matter such as waste and faeces. Adult flies usually live for around 2 to 4 weeks.
House flies live in close association with humans and feed on a range of products, but can usually be found feasting on human foodstuffs, waste, and excrement.
What do house flies look like?
A fully grown adult house fly is around 8-12mm in length, with the females being slightly larger than the males.
House flies have large red compound eyes, with their whole body being covered in hair like projections.
They have one pair of wings like most flying insects in the Diptera order (meaning literally two-wings), with a hind pair of dumbbell shaped halteres (modified from hind wings) that are smaller and aid in flight stability.
What happens when a fly lands on your food?
Unlike other pests, flies can only feed on liquid or semi-liquid substances as they lack the mouth parts to bite or chew.
When it comes to solid food they will regurgitate a liquid made from saliva and digestive juices which breaks down the food into a liquid substance allowing them to feast.
Diseases spread by house flies
House flies are known to be responsible for spreading a range of diseases and infections. The WHO states that house flies are carriers of diarrhoeal diseases, skin and eye infections. Unlike other insects such as mosquitoes, house flies are not biting insects and are indirect rather than direct vectors of diseases.
It has also been proven that house flies can transmit food-borne pathogens and their associated toxin and resistance. Areas in close proximity to animal production sites are at higher risk of accumulating food borne diseases from flies.
House fly diseases
House flies are known to carry and spread these diseases:
- Typhoid fever
They transmit this range due to their feeding and breeding habits. House flies will often feed on rotting or decaying matter, as well as human and animal faeces. When a house fly feast upon an item of food infected with bacteria they accumulate the pathogen within their oesophagus or digestive system.
Due to a house flies feeding habit of regurgitating their stomach contents onto solid objects to liquify them, any bacteria living in their oesophagus will be transmitted to the item they are consuming. Similarly the bacteria living within their digestive system will be transmitted to items which they defecate on through their faeces.
Areas where these products are found, the items themselves, as well as their preferred breeding sites, can often play host to the pathogens which cause the diseases. Because of this house flies can accumulate the bacteria on the tiny hairs on their legs and body. When a fly lands on a food product, or any other item, any pathogen which has attached itself to said hairs can easily be transmitted.
How can you catch a house fly transmitted disease?
The most common form of transmission is by consuming contaminated food products and liquids.
You can catch a house fly transmitted disease by consuming any food or drink which a house fly has: regurgitated, defecated, urinated, or landed on. Transmission can also occur from using contaminated cooking utensils, cutlery, and eating utensils.
You can also catch a house fly transmitted disease through direct contact and by touching an infected product then touching your eyes or open wounds such as scratches and sores.
How to prevent house fly transmitted diseases
The prevention of flies, and house fly diseases can be done by taking some proactive measures to reduce the presence of flies in your home or businesses.
Following correct food hygiene practices can help prevent the spread of house fly diseases by removing the harmful bacteria which cause the diseases. This can be done by ensuring raw ingredients are stored in a hygienic manner (airtight containers) and are thoroughly washed before usage.
Ensuring both cooking and eating utensils as well as food preparation areas are kept to a high standard of hygiene will also help eliminate any bacteria distributed by house flies. This will also make food-preparation areas less attractive to house flies, reducing the risk of diseases being spread.
Eliminate breeding sites
Common breeding sites for house flies such as animal sheds, garbage, and excrement are among some of the main areas in which house flies accumulate the pathogens associated with house fly diseases.
Eliminating these areas will reduce the risk of house flies accumulating the diseases, but also help prevent them entirely.
Animal sheds, pens and stables should have the correct fly prevention methods installed to reduce the risk of house flies. This can be done by installing fly screens, and ensuring the areas are regularly cleaned.
A proper waste management system should be in place to ensure waste units aren’t overfilled and are regularly emptied. Bins should have a tight lid secured at all times and units should be regularly cleaned.
Washrooms should be regularly cleaned and all pipes should be running smoothly to reduce build up and overflow. Fly screens should be installed over ventilation covers and drains to prevent house flies from entering. In terms of livestock, dung should be stacked to reduce the surface area and covered with plastic sheets and other fly-proof materials.
Professional pest control
The most efficient way to prevent house fly diseases is to enlist the help of a professional pest control company. A house fly exterminator will be able to offer proactive services and solutions to both control and prevent house flies.
Luminos fly killer
Luminos fly killers are a hygienic fly traps which use a unique encapsulation technology which reduces the risk of contamination from house flies. The use of adhesive film and glue boards ensures debris from a dead insect does not escape the device, further reducing the risk of house fly diseases.
Need help with fly control? Contact your local pest control expert today.
(Photo: Getty Image and istock)