Health Department urges protection from tick, mosquito bites


HUNTSVILLE — The Scott County Health Department is reminding residents and visitors it’s time to think about prevention of tick and mosquito bites. Last year in Tennessee there were 24 human cases of West Nile virus, 540 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the first appearance of Heartland Virus, all potentially deadly illnesses carried by ticks and/or mosquitoes.

“We encourage people to think about a simple phrase, ‘Long, Loose and Light’ when it comes to protection against ticks and mosquitoes,” said Art Miller, County Director. “With long, loose sleeves and pants, less skin is susceptible to a bite, while the lighter color makes it easier to spot a tick that has hitched a ride on your clothing.”

Symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever usually appear two to 14 days after a bite from an infected tick. The disease often begins with sudden onset of fever and headache. Early symptoms may resemble other diseases and include nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, lack of appetite and severe headache. Later symptoms may include rash, abdominal pain, joint pain and diarrhea.

Mosquitoes become infected with West Nile virus by feeding on infected birds and can transmit the disease through their bites to humans, horses, family pets and livestock. Symptoms usually appear between three to 14 days after a mosquito bite occurs and may include fever, aches and fatigue early in the illness. Those with severe illness may experience neck stiffness, disorientation, stupor, tremors, convulsions, loss of vision, numbness and paralysis.

Mosquitoes in Tennessee may carry other serious illnesses, such as Eastern equine encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis and Heartland Virus. The latter is new to the U.S. and was first reported in Tennessee in 2013. This tick-borne illness spreads a virus instead of bacteria.

To avoid insect bites, cover skin with clothing whenever possible and use EPA-approved repellents. Follow all manufacturers’ directions for insect repellent use.

Some helpful tips:

•Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk; be mindful of their feeding patterns.

•Do not use perfumes, colognes or scented deodorants or soap if you’re going outside, as fragrances may attract insects.

•Tuck pants into socks to keep ticks off your legs.

•Use insect repellants such as DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 on your skin, following all label recommendations for usage. Pay particular attention to recommendations for use on children, and never apply any of these products around the mouth or eyes at any age.

•Products containing permethrin, a highly effective insecticide, are recommended for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes and other pests and retains this effect after repeated laundering. As a caution, it is not to be used directly on skin.

•Eliminate standing water near your home, which can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Many containers, even those as small as a bottle cap, can hold enough water for mosquitoes to breed.

•Keep wading pools empty when not in use and store them on their sides. Replace water in bird baths weekly and don’t allow water to stand in buckets or barrels.

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