Tick and Mosquito Season Is Here, Stay Safe Out There
According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled in the U.S., with more than 640,000 cases reported during the past 13 years. This alarming number includes nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks that were discovered or introduced into the United States during this time.
Of course, this does not mean that you have to stay inside all spring and summer, but there are some steps you should take to protect yourself and loved ones (including the furry loved ones):
According to the CDC to protect from tick bites you should:
Before You Go Outdoors
- Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
- 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.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. EPA’s helpful search tool can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions.
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
Avoid Contact with Ticks
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
After You Come Indoors
- Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
- Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting tickborne diseases due to our capability to inspect our bodies for ticks without clothes on. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
- Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around the hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.
If you do find a tick that attached itself to you, here are some tips from the CDC:
How to Remove a Tick
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.
If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.
Preventing ticks on your pets
Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tickborne diseases. Vaccines are not available for most of the tickborne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. For these reasons, it’s important to use a tick preventive product on your dog.
Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tickborne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick.
Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick prevention products for your dog.
To further reduce the chances that a tick bite will make your dog sick:
- Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
- If you find a tick on your pet, remove it right away.
Note: Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any tick prevention products to your cats without first asking your veterinarian!
To prevent mosquito bites, which can potentially carry West Nile Virus or Eastern equine encephalitis, and potentially other mosquito-borne illness such as Zika Virus in Upstate New York, the CDC and the WHO recommends the following:
- Use insect repellent: When used as directed, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Use an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients:
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
- Cover up: Wear long-sleeved shirts and long .
- Routinely check your house surroundings to identify any potential breeding grounds: A female mosquito can lay 100-300 eggs at a single time. Keep in mind mosquitoes can use a single plastic bottle cap filled with water to lay their eggs.
- Keep mosquitoes outside: As long as it is possible, use air conditioning, or window and door screens. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, ideally sleep under a mosquito bed net.
Here at the University of Rochester Medical Center, we have some graduate students taking the problem of tick and mosquito borne illnesses head-on using innovative, and transformative engaging approaches that are designed for communities.
Highlighting Research at URMC
Lorne Farovitch, a Translational Biomedical Science PhD student in Dr. Benjamin Miller and Dr. Tim Dye’s labs, is studying tick-borne diseases using interdisciplinary approach, including diagnostic testing, science communication and epidemiology. His research is focused on three goals: 1) Define the relationship and the geographic distribution of tick-borne diseases, 2) Determine the application of novel diagnostic testing and 3) Document and determine the effective science communication method with deaf population.
José Pérez Ramos, a Translational Biomedical Science PhD student in Dr. Tim Dye’s Lab, is doing important work in using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to crowd-source mosquito control. He works on the island of Culebra, which is located off the coast of Puerto Rico. Culebra had one of the highest rates of Zika in Puerto Rico. Jose’s work focuses on understanding environmental challenges and mosquito-borne disease risks in the context of a marginalized island. One objective is to use crowdsourcing, maps and technology to engage the community to reduce health risks.