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North West WA warned after March fly surge

Midwest Times
A march fly bites into a human.
Camera IconA march fly bites into a human. Credit: WA Health

Residents in the North West of the State are being warned to protect themselves from March flies, following a surge in insect numbers after heavy rainfall.

While not known to transmit disease in Australia, March fly bites can cause adverse allergic reactions in some people, sometimes requiring hospitalisation.

The Department of Health issued a warning following reports of March flies causing severe anaphylactic reactions in the Gascoyne and Pilbara.

The department’s acting medical entomologist, Dr Jay Nicholson, said the record-breaking rainfall combined with recent warm temperatures had led to increased March fly breeding.

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“Although March flies are not known to transmit diseases to people in WA, bites can cause adverse allergic reactions, including skin redness and swelling,” he said.

“In rare cases, people may experience serious symptoms including hives, fever, wheezing, difficulty breathing and anaphy-laxis.”

The warning for residents and travellers to the Pilbara and Gascoyne suggests taking precautions against bites by wearing long loose-fitting and lightcoloured clothing outside.

Dr Nicholson said the department only had five confirmed cases of severe allergic reactions but, anecdotally, there were more incidents present in the community.

“Painful bites may be treated with ice packs and mild antihistamines,” he said.

“If a bite becomes infected due to scratching, an antiseptic cream or antibiotic may be required.

“ Patients with severe allergic reaction, such as widespread swelling or rash or difficulty breathing should seek urgent medical attention.”

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