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CAIRO: An invasion of desert flies in Egypt has sparked debate about how to handle the insects and the health hazards they can pose.

The flies have been carried by the Khamsin winds — dry, sand-filled winds from the southern Sudanese deserts — and have been spotted in Marsa Matrouh. Meteorologists have warned the public to keep their windows closed.

Ali Qutb, a climate professor at Zagazig University and former vice president of the Egyptian Meteorological Authority, told Arab News: “Egypt’s geographical location and climate make it particularly susceptible to these flies. The desert fly problem peaks during the summer and is exacerbated by the Khamsin winds of spring, which carry sand from the desert, aiding the spread of these flies from their natural desert habitats to populated areas.”

He added: “These flies thrive in tropical and subtropical regions and have been documented throughout Saudi Arabia. They prefer desert and rural environments, often attacking nomadic communities, (and) especially children, in large numbers.

“The primary reasons for their spread include high temperatures, which facilitate their rapid breeding, alongside inadequate health surveillance and ineffective pest control programs. Controlling desert flies involves removing breeding sites such as trash and organic debris, employing fly traps, and applying insecticides in affected areas.”

Ali Younis, a professor of entomology at Cairo University, said the desert fly was similar to a common housefly, some 3.5mm-6.5mm in length and varying in color from black and brown to blue.

He said: “These flies rarely enter buildings; they prefer light areas over dark and can tolerate high temperatures. They typically congregate around eyes and wounds, where they can cause intense irritation.”

Highlighting the potential dangers, Younis added: “Desert flies can transmit a multitude of diseases to humans, including viral diseases like spinal meningitis, bacterial infections such as anthrax, cholera, and typhoid, and protozoal diseases like amoebiasis and tapeworms. Their bites are not only painful but can also cause severe itching.”

He said there were several effective deterrents: “Using incense is a popular method to repel desert flies, as is a mixture of vinegar and soap. Placing a quarter cup of vinegar mixed with a quarter cup of liquid soap in a deep bowl in the area to be cleaned and leaving it for a prolonged period can help.

“Additionally, herbs like basil and wild mint are effective in repelling these flies from homes, and a mixture of hot pepper and water sprayed around outdoor areas can also be beneficial.”

The Meteorological Authority has issued warnings about the desert fly invasion, advising citizens to keep doors and windows securely closed and use mosquito nets while sleeping. Other precautions include maintaining personal hygiene and keeping homes clean, removing sources of stagnant water, and using insect repellent when outdoors.

 

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