Vampire horseflies are on the rise as the UK faces its longest heat wave over that last four decades.
Charities now warn that the bite of these bloodsucking flies may potentially result in deadly infection.
Increasing Temperature And Horsefly Infestation
The Antibiotic Research UK said that increasing temperatures have caused swarms of horseflies in the UK to reach Mediterranean levels, increasing odds of serious bacterial infections.
Calls to the NHS helpline about insect bites have increased by nearly double the normal number at this time of the year and doctors have reported incidents of patients who were treated in the hospital for infected horsefly bites.
Data from the Public Health England show that about 9,000 calls were made to the NHS 111 helpline on July 8, which is about double the baseline number. This spike coincided with the heat wave as temperatures peaked between June 24 and July 9.
"We wouldn't normally see anyone coming to hospital for a bite, but we have seen a few recently needing treatment with antibiotics which is very unusual," said Nick Scriven, Society for Acute Medicine president.
"A couple of these were infected bites from horseflies. They actually give one of the nastier bites, because they take a chunk out of you."
Infection From Horsefly Bites
The females feed on blood and can leave painful swelling when they bite. The swellings may take a while to heal, and can easily get infected, especially when scratched. An infected horsefly bite may lead to raised and nasty rash, shortage of breath, dizziness and swollen limbs.
People who are at greater risk are those with a weakened immune system. Current treatments include steroid creams and antihistamine, and broad-spectrum antibiotics in serious cases.
Amid increasing tolerance to drugs, however, experts fear that the minor cuts could become serious and lead to amputations or possibly death. With increasing resistance, it may be difficult for healthcare providers to find the right treatment for the infection.
"Here is a prime example of why we need to develop new medications fast to keep up with our changing climate and unexpected situations such as a horsefly bite epidemic," said Colin Garner, chief executive of ANTRUK.
"We have been warning for some time that our antibiotics are so ineffective that we could reach the situation where people will once again die from an infected scratch or bite."
The public is urged to remove standing water to reduce the risk of getting insect bites and stings.