Prevent Tick and Mosquito Bites this Summer
With summer quickly approaching, Ohioans are spending more time outdoors and encounters with mosquitoes and ticks are possible. In addition to being pesky, it’s important to remember that some of these pests may carry diseases. Mosquitoes may carry West Nile virus, La Crosse virus or a few other diseases. Ticks may also carry diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Any person bitten by a mosquito or tick infected with any of these diseases is at risk. Below is some information to help you prevent contracting any of these diseases.
Preventing Mosquito-borne Diseases
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, which includes puddles, stagnant ditches, and containers such as old tires, buckets, cans, neglected swimming pools, etc. Storm sewers, culverts, catch-basins, etc. provide an outdoor resting place for mosquitoes most commonly associated with WNV. It is important to apply mosquito repellent when participating in any outdoor activity — especially when fishing, camping or boating at night.
Every year, WNV-positive mosquitoes are found all over Ohio, in addition to human cases of WNV. Human cases of La Crosse virus are also reported in Ohio every year. Cases of Zika virus, chikungunya, dengue and malaria are also reported in Ohioans traveling from areas at risk for these diseases. CDC recommends that pregnant women should not travel to areas with a Zika risk. Women thinking about becoming pregnant should consider avoiding nonessential travel to areas with a CDC Zika travel notice. Travelers to an area with a CDC Zika travel notice should take steps to prevent mosquito bites.
Follow these tips at home to help avoid mosquito bites:
- Make sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens.
- Repair or replace all torn screens in your home.
- Remove all discarded tires from your property.
- Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
- Make sure roof gutters drain properly. Clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. If not in use, keep empty and covered.
- Drain water from pool covers.
- Change the water in bird baths at least once a week.
- Turn over plastic wading pools, and wheelbarrows, etc. when not in use.
- Clean ditches of obstructions so they drain properly.
- Eliminate any standing water that collects on your property.
- Check trees for cavities that hold water and fill them with soil, gravel or sand.
- Remind or help neighbors to eliminate breeding sites on their properties.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents and follow the label directions.
Follow these tips while traveling to help avoid mosquito-borne diseases:
· Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
· Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
· Sleep under a mosquito bed net if outside and not able to protect against mosquito bites.
· Wear EPA-registered insect repellents. All EPA registered insect repellents have been evaluated for effectiveness and are safe to use during pregnancy.
o Always follow the product label instructions.
o Reapply repellent as instructed.
o Do not spray insect repellent underneath clothing.
o Apply sunscreen to skin first then insect repellent.
o Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
· Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchasing permethrin-treated items. Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings.
Preventing Tick-borne Diseases
Tick-borne diseases can be transmitted only by the bite of an infected tick. An infected animal or person cannot pass the infection on to another animal or person. Ticks normally become infected by taking a blood meal from an infected animal. Use caution when removing ticks from pets and be sure to check yourself and loved ones after spending time in ticks’ habitat.
Ohio has seen a significant increase in the black-legged tick populations in recent years. Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the only known vector of Lyme disease in the eastern U.S. Deer ticks are somewhat smaller and darker than our other important tick species and the adults are active during the late fall – early spring, when the other species are dormant.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is caused by a bacteria carried primarily by the American dog tick. Not all ticks are infected and an infected tick is usually attached to the host for four to six hours before it transmits disease. Adult American dog ticks look for large hosts such as dogs, but they will also feed on humans. They are the most common ticks in Ohio.
The risk of exposure to ticks and disease can be reduced by using these precautions:
- Avoid tick-infested areas (i.e. wooded or weedy areas).
- If exposure is unavoidable, tuck pants into sock tops or boots.
- Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to find crawling ticks.
- Use repellents and follow label instructions carefully.
- Check children for ticks frequently.
- Use caution when handling ticks and dispose of properly.
- Dogs can become infected with tick-borne diseases.
- Dogs should be kept in well-mowed areas during tick season (April-September).
- Treatments are available to control ticks on dogs. Always follow label instructions.
- Inspect dogs for ticks every day. Ticks should be handled with caution and disposed of safely.
- Keep yard and outdoor play areas well mowed to discourage tick infestation.
- If a tick is attached, remove it as soon as possible; this reduces your risk of infection.
- Shield fingers with a paper towel or use tweezers. Grasp the tick close to the skin. With steady pressure, pull the tick straight up and out.
- Do not twist or jerk the tick. This may cause the mouth parts to be left in the skin.
- Do not crush or puncture the tick.
- Do not use a flame or cigarette to remove a tick. This may cause the tick to burst and increase disease risk.
- After removing a tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands with soap and water.
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