Warning over potentially deadly bites from ‘vampire horseflies’ as numbers rise in heatwave

PUBLISHED: 16:26 16 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:06 17 July 2018

Horsefly on a human hand. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Horsefly on a human hand. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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The recent heatwave could bring a wave of ‘vampire horseflies’ to the region, prompting a warning over the risk of infections.

Female Horsefly (Tabanus sudeticus). Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoFemale Horsefly (Tabanus sudeticus). Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The hot weather has seen populations of bloodsucking clegs – most commonly known horseflies – reach Mediterranean levels and the NHS has reported calls to 111 about insect bites are almost double the normal rate.

And with the female feeding off blood, Antibiotic Research UK (ANTRUK) has warned that bites could result in painful swellings and the possibility of infections which might not be treatable with existing antibiotics.

“It is entirely possible in 2018 that you can die of an insect bite, not just in some hot foreign clime, but here in Britain,” said Colin Garner, chief executive of ANTRUK. “We have not invested in the kinds of antibiotics we need to keep up with devious and ever-changing bacterial infections.

“Now we are in real danger that we could return to a pre-antibiotic past, where dirty wounds, bites and conditions like TB and Typhoid might kill.”

The majority of small, but sometimes painful insect bites, can be treated at home with over-the-counter medication. But itchy horsefly bites take longer to heal and can become infected, especially if scratched.

The effects of an infected horsefly bite can include an often raised and nasty rash, dizziness, shortage of breath, and weak and swollen limbs.

Current treatments include antihistamine and steroid creams and in serious cases, broad-spectrum antibiotics.

The NHS advise that you see your GP immediately if an insect bite results in symptoms of an infection such as pus, increased pain, redness and swelling.

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