February 21, 2019
(4/20/15) - David Remmert, public health director for the DeWitt/Piatt Bi-County Health Department, reminded residents today to take precautions against insects that might spread disease. “As temperatures warm up, it serves as a reminder to us that we need to take precautions against vector-borne diseases transmitted by contact with insects such as mosquitoes and ticks,” said Remmert, “we are surrounded by great recreational areas that provide enjoyment for many in our area, but we need to be aware of risks and protect ourselves as we venture out into wooded areas”. Remmert adds “there is increasing concern over the presence of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever found in our area, as well, and residents should be aware of that”.
Remmert notes that the best way to prevent mosquito-borne and tick-borne illnesses is to reduce the number of mosquitoes and ticks around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito and tick bites. Precautions include:
- Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. Use prevention methods whenever mosquitoes are present.
- When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a hat. Remember to tuck trouser cuffs in socks to prevent ticks from crawling under clothing. Apply insect repellent that includes 10% to 30% DEET, primarily to clothes, and apply sparingly to exposed skin. Avoid spraying directly to the face; spray the repellent onto hands and then apply to the face, and always follow label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
- Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
- Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.
- Walk in the center of trails so weeds do not brush against you. In camping areas, individuals who sit on the ground or disturb leaf litter on the forest floor may encounter ticks more readily.
- Check yourself, children and other family members every two to three hours for ticks. Most ticks seldom attach quickly and rarely transmit disease organisms until they have been attached four or more hours. If your pets spend time outdoors, check them for ticks, too.
- 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. You may want to put the tick in a jar of rubbing alcohol labeled with the date and location of the bite in case you seek medical attention and your physician wishes to have the tick identified.
- 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 or a rash, 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.
“While there are many different diseases transmitted through insects”, Remmert adds, “we are especially concerned at this time of year over West Nile virus, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, three diseases that seem more prevalent in our area.” West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. The first human case in Illinois is not usually reported until July or later. Only about two persons out of 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as encephalitis and meningitis, and death are possible. Persons older than 50 years of age have a highest risk of severe disease.
Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are acute infectious diseases transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick. The diseases occur throughout the United States during months when ground temperatures reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit or more and ticks are active. Both children and adults can be affected by Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Disease incidence is directly related to exposure to tick-infested habitats or to infested pets. These diseases are spread by the bite of an infected tick or by contamination of the skin with tick blood or feces. Person-to- person transmission does not occur. Both diseases are characterized by a sudden onset of moderate to high fever (which can last for two or three weeks), severe headache, fatigue, deep muscle pain, chills and rash. The rash begins on the legs or arms, may include the soles of the feet or palms of the hands and may spread rapidly to the trunk or the rest of the body. Not every case of Rocky Mountain spotted fever will have the rash. Lyme disease is most commonly characterized by a bullseye type rash at the site of the tick bite.
Additional information about West Nile virus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health website at www.idph.state.il.us.