July 5, 2015

Ticks and mosquitoes: Take precautions if you’re going outdoors

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tick and mosquito bites are more than a nuisance; they can transmit diseases that make people seriously ill, as some in Rowan County have learned.
A man who became ill with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick bite in Rowan last year had to be hospitalized long term with severe complications, according to Public Health Director Nina Oliver. Extensive rehabilitation followed.
In all last year, Rowan had 13 reported cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, two of which were confirmed. The numbers were the same for Lyme Disease, another tick-borne illness — 13 reported, two confirmed.
Everyone should take precautions against tick and mosquito bites when spending time outdoors, according to health officials.
“Ticks and mosquitoes are very common in our state, and they can carry germs that cause serious infections,” Oliver said. “The good news is that many of these infections can be prevented by following some basic control measures.”
In addition to Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ticks in North Carolina can also transmit erlichiosis and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI). All these diseases cause fever, rash and flu-like symptoms.
Rowan had four reported cases of erlichiosis last year, none confirmed.
It takes several hours for a tick to transmit one of these diseases, so finding and removing ticks quickly helps avoid disease transmission.
The Rowan County Health Department shares these tips:
• The safest way to remove a tick is to grasp it near the head with tweezers and pull it straight out slowly. Other methods are not effective and may pose a danger to your skin.
• When outside, check often for ticks on the scalp and around waistbands and other tight-fitting areas where ticks can hide. Remove ticks quickly and clean the area of the bite to prevent secondary infection. If you are bitten by a tick and develop symptoms, you should see a health care provider.
The main viruses transmitted by mosquitoes in North Carolina are West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and LaCrosse Encephalitis. Most cases of these diseases produce mild flu-like symptoms, but they can lead to life-threatening illnesses such as encephalitis, meningitis and meningoencephalitis.
Heath officials say a new mosquito-borne virus has entered the state this year. Chikungunya has been brought to North Carolina by travelers to the Caribbean where the virus is common.
The symptoms of chikungunya include severe muscle and joint pain, sometimes lasting for weeks. It is carried by the Asian Tiger Mosquito, which is plentiful in the state.
Activities to help protect against illness caused by ticks and mosquitoes include:
• Avoid tick habitat, which includes wooded, grassy or brushy areas and wear repellents if you can’t avoid habitat.
• If you find a tick attached to your body, carefully remove it by grasping the tick with a fine tipped tweezers as close as possible to your skin and apply a steady gentle pressure until it releases.
• To prevent exposure to mosquitoes, use a mosquito repellent when you are outside and exposed to mosquitoes. Always read the label directions before applying any insect repellent. The common active ingredient in mosquito repellent, DEET, is not very effective against ticks. To repel ticks, Permethrin is the chemical of choice. It is applied to clothing and can last for several weeks from a single application.
• Mosquito-proof your home by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside and use air conditioning if you have it.
• Reduce mosquito breeding by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths on a regular basis.