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Avoid the bite

Friday 14 February 2020

Recent rains in the Central West region have led to an upsurge in black fly and bush mosquito populations, public health authorities have warned.

Central Queensland Public Health Unit Environmental Health Services Director Paul Florian said black flies – more commonly known as sandflies in the Central West region – were aggressive biters found in areas around streams and rivers.

“But bush mosquitoes are also bad in the region at the moment,’’ he said.

Mr Florian said while black flies (sandflies) did not transmit specific disease, allergic reactions and bacterial skin infections may occur from bites and scratching the bites.

Mosquito bites on the other hand can result in a range of diseases, including Dengue Fever, Ross River Fever, Barmah Forest Virus, Kunjin and Murray River Encephalitis.

“The bites from both black flies (sandflies) and mosquitoes can itch and persist for several days and can become infected,’’ he said.

Mr Florian said black flies (sandflies) were active only during the day and did not bite at night.

Their peak activity period tends to occur from sunrise to mid-morning (10 am), and then late afternoon (4 pm) to sunset.

Bush mosquitoes, on the other hand are most active in the evenings, nights and early mornings.

Mr Florian said the very best protection against mosquito-borne diseases and against black fly bites was to avoid being bitten in the first place.

Black fly (sandflies) and mosquito bites can be avoided by:

  • Applying insect repellent,
  • Using physical barriers, such as nets on prams and cots, to protect babies under three months old,
  • If camping, sleep under a mosquito net,
  • Avoiding outdoor activity when possible during the periods when black flies and mosquitoes are active,
  • Keeping your shirt sleeves and front closely fastened (shirts with zippered fronts keep flies out better than buttoned shirts),
  • Tucking trousers inside socks or high boots
  • Ensuring insect screens on doors and windows are intact
  • Using a knock-down insect spray in living areas.

Mr Florian said personal repellents containing DEET or picaridin tended to last longer than other repellents, depending on the concentration.

“Always use repellent in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions,’’ he said.

To prevent skin infections from black fly (sandflies) or bush mosquito bites:

  • Try to avoid scratching the bite.
  • Apply calamine lotion or another anti-pruritic preparation to bite areas to prevent itching,
  • Keep affected limbs elevated,
  • Wash hands before and after touching open wounds,
  • Watch skin sores for signs of infection.

If the bite areas become inflamed, clean with soap and water at least once a day, apply an antiseptic lotion and keep covered with a dry dressing.

Application of a cool compress (i.e. icepack wrapped in cloth) also can reduce inflammation.

If skin sores become hot, red, swollen or painful, see your doctor immediately.

Mr Florian said Central West residents also should take steps to eliminate mosquito breeding sites on their properties.

“Remove debris and vegetation from storm drains and ditches. Drain areas in and around yards and workplaces where water has temporarily accumulated,’’ he said.

“Empty all containers such as buckets, tyres, bird baths and plant pots and saucers weekly to reduce mosquito breeding.

“Mosquitoes also can breed in domestic water tanks, so checking the integrity of water tank screens and replacing damaged screens is a sound prevention measure.’’

He said anyone feeling unwell with high fever, headache, skin rash, neck stiffness, joint or muscle pain should see their doctor immediately.


For further information contact:

James Guthrie
Principal Media Officer, Rural and Remote Qld
Media and Communication
Department of Health
(07) 3708 5379

Last updated: 18 February 2020