Fight the Bite: Protect Yourself from Diseases Caused by Ticks and Mosquitoes

As the Onondaga County Health Department continues its efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic in our community, it is important to remember other issues that are affecting our health. The arrival of warm weather brings with it the need to protect ourselves from mosquito- and tick-borne diseases. Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta reminds residents, “While we are enjoying this beautiful Central New York springtime, it is important to consistently use personal protection measures to reduce the risk of mosquito and tick bites that may transmit West Nile virus (WNV), Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV), or Lyme disease from now through the fall season.”

The Health Department has begun the annual mosquito surveillance and control program for this year. This program collects and tests mosquitoes for viruses including WNV and EEEV. The program also uses larvicides (an insecticide) to control mosquito breeding in standing bodies of water.

Personal Protection Measures
The Health Department reminds residents that there are steps everyone should take to protect themselves from mosquito and tick bites during outdoor activities:

  • Wear shoes, light-colored socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck in your shirt and tuck pant legs into boots or socks. Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. 
  • Consider using insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and other products that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Use this EPA search tool to help you choose the repellent product that is right for you, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on proper use for safety and effectiveness. Insect repellents should be applied only to intact skin or over clothing. Do NOT apply DEET or Picaridin directly onto children’s skin (apply to your own hands and then put it on the child). Repellent should not be used on babies younger than 2 months old.
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home
It is also important to mosquito-proof your home by replacing or repairing broken screens and getting rid of standing water where mosquitoes breed. Keep your property free of standing water by cleaning clogged rain gutters; turning over wheelbarrows and wading pools when not in use; changing water in birdbaths every four days; properly maintaining swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; draining water from pool covers; and, using landscaping to eliminate low spots where standing water accumulates.

Signs and Symptoms of WNV and EEE
Most people who are infected with WNV or EEE do not develop any signs or symptoms. However, both WNV and EEE are potentially serious illnesses. Signs and symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, confusion, tremors (shaking), convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, irritability, drowsiness, numbness, paralysis, vomiting, diarrhea, and coma. Consult your healthcare provider if you have been bitten by a mosquito and develop any of these signs and symptoms.

Check for and Remove Ticks
After outdoor activities, it is critical to check your body for an attached tick. Early removal is important—the longer an infected tick is attached to the skin, the higher the chances are for transmitting disease. According to the CDC, an infected tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. Keep ticks away by mowing your lawn often and removing brush.  Playground toys, decks, and patios should be kept away from wooded areas. In addition, do not feed deer on your property. If you see a tick embedded in your skin, follow the steps below (or watch this video) to learn how to remove it:

  • Take tweezers to the tick’s head or mouth, where it enters the skin.
  • Pull the tick firmly up, in a steady motion, away from the skin.
  • Clean the bite with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Keep a record of the date, time, and where you were bitten.

Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Call your health care provider if a tick has been attached to your skin for more than 36 hours, or if you had a recent tick bite and develop any symptoms (“bull’s-eye” rash, fever, fatigue, chills, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes). Lyme disease can be prevented and effectively treated with appropriate and timely medical treatment.

More Information and Resources
For more information about mosquito-borne illnesses or Lyme disease, contact the Onondaga County Health Department, Division of Environmental Health at 315.435.1649 or visit:

Onondaga County Health Department

New York State Department of Health  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)