Its summer and that means sunshine, vacations, barbecues and unfortunately, bugs and mosquito and tick bites. Normally we think of these bites as a nuisance, but the CDC is reporting an increase in the number of mosquito and tick-borne illnesses, and because of this they are urging us to take precautions. Below are the main diseases and how to protect yourself and the ones you love:
- Zika Virus: if you live in a tropical climate or if you vacation in one this summer, you may be exposed to Zika. In healthy people, the symptoms are mild and include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes and muscle pain lasting for several days to a week. Typically, people don’t get sick enough to go to a hospital, and death from Zika is rare. The people most at risk are pregnant women, and men and women hoping to become pregnant.This group of people should take every precaution in tropical climates and see their doctor immediately should they experience any symptoms.
- Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is most commonly found in the Northeast, including New York State, in the upper Midwest, and along the Northwest coast. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. If you live or vacation near tall grass fields or wooded areas where deer and ticks are plentiful, please see your doctor right away should you experience symptoms.
- West Nile Virus: West Nile Virus (WNV)has been reported throughout the continental US. It is transmitted to people by mosquito bites, so it’s largely seen only during summer and fall months. Most people who are exposed to WNV do not experience any symptoms at all. About 1 in 5 experience fevers and body aches. Fatigue and weakness can last for weeks. WNV is a concern because about 1 out of 150 infected people develop a serious and sometimes fatal illness. People with compromised immune symptoms are most at risk.
How to Protect Yourself and Love Ones: Use EPA-registered repellants; wear long sleeve pants and shirts, this includes children and babies; use mosquito netting on strollers; use screens on windows and doors, repair holes in the screen if they exist; mosquitos lay eggs near water, so empty, cover or throw out items that hold water inside and outside your home; carefully examine pets for ticks, ticks can “ride in” on a pet and then later attach to a person; if you are at high risk, then treat clothing to products containing .5% permethrin, an effective repellent that remains protective through several washings; If you’ve spent significant time camping in the woods, you should tumble dry your clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may be hiding. If you need to wash your clothes first, be sure to tumble dry for 90 minutes, or until the clothes are completely dry.
If you suspect you have a mosquito or tick-borne illness, call your doctor immediately.