Fight the bite: protect yourself from diseases caused by mosquitoes and ticks

(Syracuse, NY) With a few sunny days expected and the arrival of spring in central New York, the Onondaga County Health Department is urging the public to protect themselves from mosquito and tick-borne diseases now and throughout the fall season.

Dr Indu Gupta

Health Commissioner Dr Indu Gupta reminds residents: “After the long winter in central New York, as we do yard work, hike, go to parks and spend time outdoors taking advantage of the warmer weather, it is important to protect yourself and your family from mosquito and tick bites which can transmit West Nile virus (WNV), the encephalitis virus eastern equine (EEEV), Lyme disease and other diseases.

In late May, the Department of Health will launch the annual Mosquito Surveillance and Control Program for 2022. This program collects and tests mosquitoes for viruses including WNV and EEEV. The program also uses larvicides (an insecticide) to control mosquito breeding in stagnant water bodies.

Personal protection measures
The Health Department reminds residents that everyone must take certain measures to protect themselves from mosquito and tick bites during outdoor activities:

  • Wear light-colored shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt – ticks are much easier to see on light-colored clothing. Tuck in your shirt and tuck your 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 approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Use this EPA search tool to help you choose the right repellent product for you and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on proper use for safety and effectiveness. Not all products containing the repellents listed above protect against ticks; read manufacturer’s label for details.
    • Insect repellents should only be applied to intact skin or clothing, and should be reapplied regularly. Do NOT apply DEET or Picaridin directly to children’s skin (apply to your own hands and then put it on the child). The repellent should not be used on babies under 2 months old.
  • Treat clothing and equipment with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear and remains protective after multiple washes. Alternatively, you can purchase permethrin-treated clothing and equipment.

Your mosquito-proof home
It’s also important to protect your home from mosquitoes by replacing or repairing broken screens and eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed. Keep your property free of standing water by cleaning clogged gutters; turn over wheelbarrows and paddling pools when not in use; change birdbath water every four days; properly maintain swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs; drainage of pool covers; and, using landscaping to eliminate low spots where standing water collects.

Signs and Symptoms of WNV and EEE
Most people infected with WNV or EEE do not develop any signs or symptoms. However, WNV and EEE are potentially serious diseases. Signs and symptoms may include high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, tremors, seizures, muscle weakness, loss of vision, irritability, drowsiness, numbness, paralysis, vomiting, diarrhea and coma. See your health care provider if you have been bitten by a mosquito and develop any of these signs and symptoms.

Find and remove ticks
After outdoor activities, it is essential to check your body for an attached tick. Early removal is important – the longer an infected tick remains attached to the skin, the greater the chance of disease transmission. According to the CDC, an infected tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before Lyme disease bacteria can be transmitted. Keep ticks away by mowing your lawn often and clearing brush. Playground toys, decks and patios should be kept away from wooded areas. Also, 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:

  • Place tweezers over the tick’s head or mouth where it enters the skin.
  • Firmly pull the tick upwards, in a steady motion, away from the skin.
  • Clean the bite with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Keep track of the date, time, and location where you were bitten.

Symptoms of tick-borne diseases
Call your healthcare provider if a tick has been attached to your skin for more than 36 hours or if you have recently been bitten by a tick and are developing symptoms. Lyme is the most common disease transmitted by tick bites in CNY, but other viruses have been detected in our area, including those that cause Borrelia miyamotoi disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis.

  • Symptoms of Lyme disease can include a “bulls-eye” rash, fever, fatigue, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Lyme disease can be effectively prevented and treated with proper and timely medical treatment.
  • Borrelia miyamotoi the disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis can cause nonspecific flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea, or fatigue. These symptoms may appear days or weeks after the bite of an infected tick. Without treatment, these tick-borne diseases can become serious and lead to death.

Keep an eye on your pets
Ticks and fleas can attach themselves to your dog or cat and be introduced into the home. There are several oral and topical preventive measures available to protect your pet. Talk to your veterinarian for tips on how to keep your pets and your family safe!

More information and resources
For more information on mosquito-borne diseases or Lyme disease, contact the Onondaga County Health Department, Environmental Health Division at 315.435.1649 or visit:

Onondaga County Health Department
ongov.net/health/env/mosquitoes.html
ongov.net/health/env/lyme.html

New York State Department of Health
www.health.ny.gov/diseases/west_nile_virus/
www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
www.cdc.gov/westnile/
www.cdc.gov/EasternEquineEncephalitis/
www.cdc.gov/lyme/


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