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It is that time of year again when the smallest of creatures can cause the biggest health problems. Mosquitoes and ticks can be found just about everywhere in North Carolina posing a serious threat to the public’s health.
“These pesky bugs are not just annoying. They carry diseases that cause fevers, paralysis and even death,” said Don Yousey, Brunswick County health director. “Thankfully, it is fairly easy for people to protect themselves by applying repellants, making their environment less attractive to mosquitoes, and conducting a body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas.”
Last year, North Carolina reported more than 390 cases of tick-borne diseases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. North Carolina leads the nation in cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever—a disease transmitted to people by ticks. There were also cases of Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis from tick bites. Mosquitoes can transmit diseases like La Crosse virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile virus.
Some of the ways Yousey suggested protecting yourself from mosquitoes and ticks are:
•Wear mosquito repellant containing DEET.
•Avoid the outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are at their worst.
•Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants to reduce exposure.
The most effective way of controlling mosquitoes is to reduce their breeding grounds by:
•Removing any containers that can hold water.
•Keeping gutters clean and in good repair.
•Changing the water in birdbaths and pet bowls at least twice a week.
•Using screened windows and doors that fit tightly and are not torn.
People can protect themselves from Rocky Mountain spotted fever by limiting their exposure to ticks:
•Keeping your grass cut short and removing any plants that attract deer, rodents and other wild animals can reduce the number of ticks in your yard.
•Tuck your pants legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pants legs.
•Conduct a body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas by searching your entire body for ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body.
•Check children for ticks, especially in their hair, when returning from potentially tick-infested areas. Ticks may also be carried into the household on clothing and on pets, so both should be examined carefully to exclude ticks.
Proper and prompt removal of ticks is the key to preventing infection. Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove ticks, getting as close to your skin as possible and pulling steadily. Note the day you removed the tick on a calendar. If you become ill in the next three weeks, be sure to tell your physician the date you removed the tick.
Symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever may include sudden onset of fever, headache and muscle pain, followed by development of a rash. Symptoms of Lyme disease may include a “bull’s-eye” rash accompanied by nonspecific symptoms such as fever, malaise, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and joint aches.
“Personnel protection is the best way to prevent infection,” Yousey concluded.
For additional information regarding mosquitoes and ticks, visit: www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/arbovirus/ and www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/phpm/index.htm.