Harrisburg, PA — As people continue to spend time outdoors during the fall months, the Wolf Administration wants to remind residents of the dangers of tick and mosquito-borne illnesses, and to take 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 when they are outside,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Both ticks and mosquitoes carry a number of serious diseases. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and protect yourself from these diseases.”
Before heading outdoors, it is important to cover exposed skin, wear light-colored clothing (to aid in insect detection), tuck your pants into your socks and use an insect repellent containing 20 percent or more DEET. You can also treat your clothing with a product containing permethrin to repel ticks. These steps will help protect you from both ticks and mosquitoes.
“Fall is for many the best time for hiking with beautiful colors, crisp air and fewer bugs, but many people are surprised to learn that there are ticks that remain active throughout the year, so it’s always important to take preventative measures so you can enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of being in the outdoors,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.
Adult blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the most common carrier of Lyme disease and are the only tick species that is active during the fall and winter months in Pennsylvania. These ticks emerge during the fall and are typically active during the winter months on days where the temperature is above 40 degrees. In addition to Lyme disease, these ticks also can carry several other diseases, such as Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Powassan Virus, that have been reported in the state. 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.
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.
Areas to check where ticks can become attached are:
- 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
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 who has been bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease may not always get a bull’s-eye rash.
If you believe you have been bit 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 (WNV) 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. Reduce your chance of being bitten by an infected mosquito by eliminating standing water around your home.
Although mosquitoes can bite at any time of the day or night, the mosquitoes that transmit WNV 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.
WNV 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 death.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s West Nile virus control program, visit http://www.depgis.state.pa.us/WNV/index.html.