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Diseases and Conditions Spread by Flies

Bovine ephemeral fever (BEF)

Bovine ephemeral fever (BEF), also known as three-day sickness, is an arbovirus primarily spread by the mosquito Culex annulirostris.

Always consult your veterinarian on the appropriate course of treatment for cattle affected by BEF.

Treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs has been shown to reduce the course of the disease, when given in the first stage of illness and calcium injections may aid in the treatment and recovery of animals that are down. Most animals will recover if provided with water and shade, however, in extensive management situations this is often impossible to provide.

The BEF virus can paralyse the muscles of the throat and affect the ability to swallow. Do not force affected animals to drink. Inhalation pneumonia is a common complication of BEF infection and one of the causes of death in cattle affected by BEF.


Pinkeye, also known as infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis (IBK) is a contagious bacterial eye disease of cattle that can be spread by flies.

Treatments directed against the eye lesions caused by pinkeye include antibiotics and anti-inflammatories as eye ointments, powders, sprays and oral and injectable drugs. Pinkeye ointments are long acting, one treatment lasts 48 hours. They are superior to pinkeye powders and sprays which require many repeat treatments and may cause irritation on application. Under no circumstances should treatments like kerosene, turpentine or other toxic products be used. Producers should be careful not to cause further eye trauma or spread the contagious infection when treating their animals.

Eye patching may protect the affected eye and prevent further spread. Veterinarians can prescribe treatment for pinkeye and provide additional treatments such as injections under the upper eyelid, temporary suturing the eyelids together, injectable antibiotics and pain relief.


Flystrike occurs when an open wound becomes infested with blowfly eggs and maggots.

Wound management for flystrike involves:

  • Remove any larvae present.
  • Clean the open wound with a saline solution or a skin antiseptic such as iodine.
  • Apply an insecticide (usually a powder).

Examine any fly maggots to ensure that screw-worm fly maggot is not present.

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