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May 15, 2013

Warm weather brings biting bugs

TARBORO — As the weather gets warmer, it’s time to be on the lookout for ticks and mosquitoes. Those parasites can be more than just pests; they carry diseases that can be harmful to humans and pets.

“There are simple, easy ways to ‘Fight the Bite’ while enjoying the outdoors this summer and fall,” said Karen Lachapelle, Edgecombe County Health Director. “While outdoors, reduce your chance of bites by covering as much as your skin as possible by wearing long sleeves and pants. At home, you can take a few simple steps to make your yard less tick-and-mosquito friendly.”

Lachapelle recommends that homeowners mow their lawns to keep grass short and eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes, such as containers with stagnant water.

“Start dumping all containers that have standing water in them,” she said. The county has had a wet winter, and that likely means more mosquitoes to contend with this summer, said Lachapelle.

Tips for reducing the population of ticks include clearing brush and leaf litter under trees and getting rid of plants that attract wild animals such as deer and rodents. Treating pets for ticks is another good preventative measure.

Many tick and mosquito-borne illnesses cause flu-like symptoms. The most common diseases carried by ticks are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease. Symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are sudden onset of fever, headache and muscle pain, followed by development of a rash. Symptoms of Lyme disease might include a “bull’s-eye” rash and nonspecific symptoms such as fever, malaise, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and join aches. Another tick-borne illness is Ehrlichiosis, and symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

From 2008 to 2012, Edgecombe County had one probable case and no confirmed cases of Lyme disease, one confirmed case of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and five probable and no confirmed cases of Ehrliciosis, according to a March presentation to the Edgecombe County Board of Human Services by health department nursing director Susan Rogerson,

Examples of mosquito-borne diseases are West Nile virus and encephalitis, which can cause inflammation and swelling of the brain, according to Rogerson. West Nile virus is a potentially fatal virus, and those infected may have mild symptoms such as nausea and rash, serious symptoms such as high fever and convulsions, or no symptoms at all, according to NCDHHS.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of several types of repellants against mosquitoes, including DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of 3. The treatment of clothing with permethrin is effective in repelling and killing ticks and mosquitoes, according to the CDC.

Check yourself and your children for ticks after spending time outdoors, paying close attention to the nape of the neck, behind the ears, and the groin. To remove a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers, pulling steadily upward without twisting the tick, according to instructions from the CDC. After removal, disinfect the site and wash your hands with soap and water. Contact your doctor if you become ill within three weeks of the date of the removal of the tick.

 

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