Ticks and Mosquitos Can Spoil Our Summer

westnile

By Nick Reiher

As we approach the unofficial beginning of summer, there’s nothing like getting outdoors and hitting the trails or camping in the woods.
But health officials warn there are precautions we need to take to make sure no virus follows us home and spoils our summer … or more.
Mosquitos carrying West Nile Virus and ticks carrying Lyme Disease are the most common enemies of those who like to head to the woods and or the trails to get away from it all.
In Illinois, West Nile virus was first identified in September 2001 when laboratory tests confirmed its presence in two dead crows found in the Chicago area, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The following year, the state’s first human cases and deaths from West Nile disease were recorded and all but two of the state’s 102 counties eventually reported a positive human, bird, mosquito or horse. By the end of 2002, Illinois had counted more human cases (884) and deaths (64) than any other state in the United States.
Mild cases of West Nile infections may cause a slight fever or headache. More severe infections are marked by a rapid onset of a high fever with head and body aches, disorientation, tremors, convulsions and, in the most severe cases, paralysis or death. Usually, symptoms occur from three to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Persons at the highest risk for serious illness are those 60 years of age or older.
To help prevent West Nile disease, the IDPH recommends:
• When possible, avoiding times when mosquitoes are most active (dusk until dawn).
• Avoiding areas where mosquitoes may be attracted (areas of stagnant water, high grass, etc.)
• Wearing light-colored clothing with tightly woven materials and when possible, wear shirts with long sleeves and pants that cover the entire leg.
• Applying insect repellent with DEET. Read the product label and follow noted instructions.
• Maintain window and door screens to help keep mosquitoes out of the house.
The best way to prevent West Nile encephalitis and other mosquito-borne illnesses is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by getting rid of wet areas where mosquitos are likely to breed.
Tick Time Bombs
Ticks are more common in high weeds and wooded areas. Unlike mosquitos, ticks will attach themselves to unprotected parts of your body and burrow in to feed on your blood.
IDPH officials say the most important thing people can do to “Fight the Bite” is to diligently check themselves, their pets, and help children with a tick check after spending time in areas where ticks live, such as in and near wooded areas, tall grass, and brush. Removing ticks within a 24-hour period reduces the risk of potential disease transmission.
In addition to Lyme disease, other tickborne diseases include Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiosis, tularemia, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis.
IDPH has created an interactive Tick Surveillance Map that documents the counties in Illinois where the different tick species have been confirmed.
Following are additional tips for how to avoid tickborne illnesses and have a healthy time in the outdoors:
• Walk in the center of trails. Avoid wooded, brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
• Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to find. Tuck long pants into socks and boots.
• Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent containing 20 percent DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, according to label directions.
• Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings.
• Conduct full-body tick checks on family members (underarms, ears, belly button, behind knees, between legs, waist, hair and scalp) every two to three hours. Also check any gear or pets taken on outings.
• Put your clothes in the dryer on high for 10 minutes (or one hour for damp clothes) to kill ticks.
• Shower within two hours after coming indoors.
• Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, boots or sturdy shoes and a head covering. (Ticks are easier to detect on light-colored clothing.) Tuck trouser cuffs in socks. Tape the area where pants and socks meet so ticks cannot crawl under clothing.
Tick Removal
If ticks are crawling on the outside of clothes, they can be removed with masking tape or cellophane tape. A ring of tape can be made around the hand by leaving the sticky side out and attaching the two ends. Ticks will stick to the tape which can then be folded over and then placed in the trash.
Remove any tick promptly. The mouthparts of a tick are barbed and may remain embedded and lead to infection at the bite site if not removed promptly. Do not burn the tick with a match or cover it with petroleum jelly or nail polish. Do not use bare hands to remove the tick because tick secretions may carry disease.
The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. If tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of tissue or cloth or whatever can be used as a barrier between your fingers and the tick.
Ticks can be safely disposed of by placing them in a container of soapy water or alcohol, sticking them to tape or flushing them down the toilet. If you want to have the tick identified, put it in a small vial of alcohol.
Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
If you have an unexplained illness with fever, contact a physician. Be sure to tell the physician if you have been outdoors in areas where ticks were present or traveled to areas where tickborne diseases are common.

One type of bullseye rash indicating Lyme Disease. But authorities say the size, shape and color can vary a lot.

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