Swat Away Health Problems

Swat away health problems
Keeping flies at bay keeps resident illness away*
In a healthcare setting, cleanliness is next to godliness. And in a nursing home or long-term care facility, where older residents may have compromised or weakened immune systems, keeping the residential and nursing areas free from germs is of primary concern. But doing so means more than just wiping down surfaces and sterilizing linens. One important way to keep the facility clean is to eliminate the pests that bring in germs, including houseflies that carry a multitude of germs.

Flies can harbor more than 100 known pathogens, including organisms such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus. Because they feed and lay their eggs on and near decaying organic matter such as garbage and biological waste, flies are literally covered in germs. In fact, a fly might have as many as a half-billion microorganisms crawling around on its body at any one time. As a fly travels from place to place, it deposits batches of these germs on every surface it touches.

The battle against flies is made tougher by the fact that environmental factors at a nursing facility often attract flies. With residents and visitors entering and exiting all day long, flies have ample opportunity to sneak in. Houseflies also are strongly attracted to odors, and healthcare facilities with full-service kitchens and dining rooms regularly produce aromas that entice these insects-often from miles away. Additionally, if foodservice carts are used to deliver meals to residents’ rooms, flies will follow the scent wherever the carts go throughout the building.

How do you treat a fly problem, or better yet, prevent it in the first place? The answer lies, in part, in Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, a method of pest control that aims to eliminate the sources of pest problems rather than relying on pesticides alone to curb pest populations. When it comes to flies, several IPM techniques can and should be put into practice inside and outside a nursing home or long-term care facility:


  • Mount outdoor lights at a distance to draw flies away from the facility.
  • Place your exterior Dumpsters as far away from the building as possible and work with your waste management company to schedule routine cleaning or rotation of the Dumpsters.
  • Where lights must be attached to the building, use sodium vapor bulbs, which are less attractive to insects.
  • Make sure all doors and windows close tightly, forming a seal to the outside, and keep all window screens in good repair.
  • At loading docks or other receiving areas, install plastic strip doors to block entry by insects from the outside.


  • In potential fly “hot spots” such as kitchens or near entrances, install fly lights or glue traps to capture fly populations.
  • Employ positive airflow or air curtains at entrances and exits. A steady current of air flowing from the inside out will act as a powerful barrier to flies and other flying insects.
  • Make sure drains are checked and cleaned periodically. Grimy drains are a common breeding ground for many fly species.
  • Empty garbage cans regularly. Trash should not be allowed to collect inside for prolonged periods of time.

Keep in mind that, for every fly seen, there can be many more hidden from view. That means the presence of even one fly is one too many in a healthcare setting. If you think you may have a fly problem, contact a licensed professional and ask for a free consultation on solving it.

Frank Meek, BCE, is Technical Director for Orkin, Inc. As a board-certified entomologist and an 18-year industry veteran, he is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, call (800) 675-4669 or visit www.orkin.com/commercial. To send your comments to the author and editors, e-mail meek0705@nursinghomesmagazine.com. To order reprints in quantities of 100 or more, call (866) 377-6454.
*This is the second of four seasonal pest-management articles to be offered by Orkin Commercial Services in Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management in 2005.

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