Annoying insects are just another of the things – like impatient drivers, expensive fuel, and overcrowded van parks – that grey nomads have got to learn to live with. But it’s not just the nuisance factor. Some people have a potentially dangerous allergic reaction to ticks, and every year sees about 5,000 cases of mosquito-borne disease across Australia.
And for caravanners and motorhomers heading into the bush, the humble fly also presents a significant health risk. Most grey nomads will be familiar with the ‘nightmare’ swarms of flies that descend when they get out of the rig in the outback,.
“Swarms of flies can be a real nuisance, but it is where those flies have come from that can be the real issue,” said Dr Cameron Webb, Medical Entomologist from UNSW and NSW Health Pathology. “Special care should be taken in rural areas, particular where it is likely that flies may have access to large amounts of rotting carcasses or plant or animal waste … among this waste can be a range of pathogens and parasites.”
As well as leaving behind pathogen-filled footprints, the flies may poop or vomit on food.
“Grey nomads can be particularly at risk of fly-borne bacteria as they’re often out of the city where flies can be abundant and have access to bacteria rich piles of animal waste,” said Dr Webb. “If stopping by the roadside in a rural region, they should be highly diligent in ensuring food is covered and flies kept at bay.”
The symptoms of illness caused by fly-borne pathogens can include stomach ache, diarrhoea, nausea, fever and headaches. While flies that land momentarily aren’t really a threat, it is the flies that land out of sight and wander about vomiting and pooping on food or a food preparation area that are of greater concern.
“It can be tough for grey nomads to properly screen their campervan, motorhome or caravan to stop flies squeezing in and visiting their food preparation areas,” said Dr Webb. “Food should be covered at all times and leftovers never left unattended for long before being packed away.”
Dr Webb says grey nomads should always travel with fly sprays – both knockdown and surface – but following basic food safety rules is just as important.
“It is the food left unattended in heat of the day and exposed to flies that will cause the biggest risk,” he said. “You don’t want flies visiting and leaving unwanted germs than could ruin an otherwise wonderful trip.”