The Onondaga County Health Department is encouraging residents to protect themselves from mosquito and tick bites. Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta reminds residents, “Now that warmer weather has finally arrived, 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.”
The Health Department reminds residents to take personal protection measures during outdoor activities:
- Wear shoes and light color socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck in your shirt and tuck pants legs into boots or socks. Check your body for ticks after being outdoors.
- Consider using insect repellents as their use is important for preventing mosquito-borne diseases. Look for repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and other products that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 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. With any insect repellent, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on proper use and reapplication.
Dr. Gupta explains, “Mosquitoes can carry the viruses that spread diseases like West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV)”. 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. It is also very important to mosquito-proof your home by replacing or repairing broken screens. In addition, clean clogged rain gutters, turn over wheelbarrows and wading pools when not in use, change water in bird baths every four days, properly maintain swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs, drain water from pool covers, and use landscaping to eliminate low spots where standing water accumulates.
To avoid tick bites, Dr. Gupta stresses the importance of treating clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear; and will remain protective through several washings (https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html).
It is also critical to check your body immediately after any outdoor activity for an attached tick for early removal. An infected tick must be attached to the skin for 36 hours to transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. 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 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.
- For more information about tick removal visit: cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html
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).
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: