On the eve of Tick and Mosquito Awareness Month, state health officials are reminding people to be careful because warmer, wetter weather brings out more of the disease-carrying pests.
All North Carolinians are urged to take simple steps to prevent mosquitoes and ticks from biting them and to reduce breeding sites around the home.
“Spring rains and warmer weather provide ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes and ticks,” said State Health Director Jeff Engel. “Ticks and mosquitoes can be more than just a nuisance.
They can also make people seriously ill. Now is the time to fight the bite!”
Nolan Newton, chief of the public health pest management section of the N.C. Division of Environmental Health, said that people can take steps to prevent illness.
“You can make your backyard a lot less tick-friendly,” Newton said. “Keep grass cut short and remove plants that attract wild animals like deer and rodents, which carry ticks.”
Newton said removing containers that hold water from your yard will remove mosquito breeding grounds. It’s a good idea to remind your neighbors to check their yards for containers also because mosquitoes don’t respect property lines.
“Spring rains and warmer weather provide ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes and ticks. Ticks and mosquitoes can be more than just a nuisance. They can also make people seriously ill. Now is the time to fight the bite!” – State Health Director Jeff Engel
“Take a good look at your environment now, before the mosquitoes really start biting,” he added. “Things like bird baths, old tires, planters and even small containers like tin cans or saucers under plants can give mosquitoes a place to thrive.”
Newton added that people should remember to make sure they use small mesh screens, tightly secured on rain barrels used for water conservation. Placing a screen on a rain barrel will remove a breeding area for mosquitoes but still allow people to collect rain water. But don’t forget to check your real window screens, and make sure they’re tight-fitting and free of holes.
Engel and Newton recommend insect repellents as a useful, effective way to prevent bites, particularly against mosquitoes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend several repellents against mosquitoes – DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. According to the CDC, oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3. Repellents labeled for application to clothing provide excellent protection against ticks and mosquitoes. Consumers should look for products that contain the CDCrecommended ingredients and follow the instructions.
Also, exposure to mosquitoes and ticks can be limited by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks. Tucking your pants legs into the tops of your socks can prevent ticks from crawling up your legs. People should also check themselves and their families, especially children, for ticks when they are in tick-prone areas. It’s a good idea to check at least every six hours and promptly remove ticks.
Proper and prompt removal of ticks is the key to preventing infection. Use finetipped tweezers to remove ticks, getting as close to the skin, grasping the tick by head and pulling steadily. Note the day you removed the tick on a calendar. If you develop a rash or have flu-like symptoms within the month following the bite, tell your physician the date you removed the tick.
North Carolina has its fair share of tickborne illness. In 2009, the state reported more than 450 cases of tick-borne diseases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of those were Rocky Mountain spotted fever cases, which have topped at least 250 cases each year for the past three years.
The state also sees a number of mosquito- borne illnesses in the state each year. La Crosse encephalitis occurs most frequently and primarily occurs in the western counties. Two other mosquito-borne diseases, Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus, are also found in North Carolina. While Eastern equine encephalitis is found largely in the eastern part of the state, West Nile virus can occur statewide.