Department of Health gives public safety tips for protecting yourself against ticks and mosquitoes this fall

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The Department of Health said in a news release that as people continue to spend time outdoors during the fall months, they are reminding residents of the dangers of tick and mosquito-borne illnesses, and the steps to protect themselves.

“Autumn is a wonderful season to spend time outdoors and participate in many activities, such as hiking and observing the fall foliage, but we want to make sure people protect themselves as they are outside,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.

Levine continued,“Ticks and mosquitoes each carry a number of serious diseases. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and protect yourself from these diseases, which is why it is so important for all Pennsylvanians to know the proper prevention tips before spending time in nature.”

Pennsylvania has recently seen the first human West Nile virus case of 2019, and has also seen cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in birds and animals. These diseases are carried by mosquitoes.

Before heading outdoors, it is important to cover exposed skin, wear lightweight and light-colored clothing (to aid in insect detection) and use an insect repellent containing 20 percent or more DEET. These steps will help protect you from both ticks and mosquitoes.

Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the most common carrier of Lyme disease. Ticks typically thrive in tall grass, brush and wooded areas, but deer ticks have been found in every county in the state and can live in any habitat. Ticks can infect humans year-round.

Once returning home, immediately check yourself, children and pets for ticks. Then, take a shower to remove any ticks that may be attached to your skin. Carefully check your clothing and gear and put them in the dryer on high to kill any ticks.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include a bull’s-eye rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. It is important to know that someone bit by a tick carrying Lyme disease may not always get a bull’s-eye rash.

If you believe you have been bitten by a tick, it is important to speak to a doctor immediately. Antibiotic treatment during the early stages of Lyme disease can help prevent the onset of more severe symptoms. If not treated promptly, Lyme disease may lead to severe health concerns affecting the heart, joints, and nervous system. 

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that breed in areas with standing and stagnant water. These areas include urban catch basins, clogged gutters, discarded tires, poorly maintained swimming pools, flower pots, roof gutters and other containers that hold water.

Although mosquitoes can bite at any time of the day or night, the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile Virus are most active at dawn and dusk. To keep mosquitoes from entering a home, make sure window and door screens are in place and are in good condition.

West Nile virus can cause a serious neurological infection, including encephalitis and meningitis. Symptoms of these infections include a severe headache, high fever, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, paralysis, possible confusion and disorientation, tremors, and even a coma. 

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a very serious illness that is spread to humans by mosquitoes. The symptoms of EEE are:

  • High fever (103º to 106ºF)
  • Stiff neck
  • Headache
  • Lack of energy

These symptoms typically show up three to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, can develop. The disease gets worse quickly, and some patients could end up in a coma within a week. This disease can also be fatal, as three out of every 10 people who get the disease die from it.

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