Wolf administration: protect yourself from ticks, mosquitoes while outdoors

HARRISBURG — As people continue to spend time outdoors during the fall months, state officials are reminding residents of the dangers of tick and mosquito-borne illnesses, and to take steps to protect themselves.

“Autumn is a wonderful season to spend time outdoors and participate in many activities, such as hiking and observing the fall foliage, but we want to make sure people protect themselves when they are outside,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, state secretary of health. “Both ticks and mosquitoes carry a number of serious diseases. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and protect yourself from these diseases.”

Before heading outdoors, it is important to cover exposed skin, wear light-colored clothing (to aid in insect detection), tuck pants into socks and use an insect repellent containing 20 percent or more DEET. Those going outdoors can also treat their clothing with a product containing permethrin to repel ticks.

Adult blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the most common carrier of Lyme disease and are the only tick species that is active during the fall and winter months in Pennsylvania. Adult blacklegged ticks emerge during the fall and are typically active during the winter months on days where the temperature is above 40 degrees. In addition to Lyme disease, these ticks also can carry several other diseases, such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis and powassan virus, that have been reported in the state. Ticks typically thrive in tall grass, brush and wooded areas, but deer ticks have been found in every county in the state and can live in any habitat.

Once returning home, immediately check for ticks. Then, take a shower to remove any ticks that may be attached to the skin. Carefully check clothing and gear and put them in the dryer on high to kill any ticks.

Areas to check where ticks can become attached are:

¯ under the arms;

¯ in and around the ears;

¯ inside belly button;

¯ back of the knees;

¯ in and around the hair;

¯ between the legs; and

¯ around the waist.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include a bull’s-eye rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. It is important to know that someone who has been bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease may not always get a bull’s-eye rash.

Those who think they have been bitten by a tick should speak to a doctor immediately. Antibiotic treatment during the early stages of Lyme disease can help prevent the onset of more severe symptoms. If not treated promptly, Lyme disease may lead to severe health concerns affecting the heart, joints and nervous system.

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that breed in areas with standing and stagnant water. Areas include urban catch basins, clogged gutters, discarded tires, poorly maintained swimming pools, flower pots, roof gutters and other containers that hold water. Reduce the chance of being bitten by an infected mosquito by eliminating standing water around a home.

Although mosquitoes can bite at any time of the day or night, the mosquitoes that transmit WNV are most active at dawn and dusk. To keep mosquitoes from entering a home, make sure window and door screens are in place and are in good condition.

West Nile virus can cause a serious neurological infection, including encephalitis and meningitis. Symptoms of these infections include a severe headache, high fever, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, paralysis, possible confusion and disorientation, tremors, and even death.

For more information on ticks and mosquitoes, visit www.health.pa.gov. For more information on Pennsylvania’s West Nile virus control program, visit www.depgis.state.pa.us/WNV/index.html.


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