Mosquitoes and Ticks on The Rise Due to Increased Temperatures and Rainfall◀ Back To Blog
May 23, 2014
As the summer season approaches and Americans begin spending more time outdoors, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) reminds the public that prevention is critical in avoiding the spread of vector-borne diseases transmitted by pests such as mosquitoes and ticks. With rising temperatures and an increase in rainfall throughout much of the country comes a predicted increase in mosquito and tick populations, which means a heightened threat of the transmission of common diseases such as Lyme disease, West Nile virus and many others.
Lyme disease and West Nile virus infect thousands of Americans each year and are a growing concern, especially in light of the CDC's 2013 news that Lyme disease is ten times more common than previously reported. However, other lesser-known vector-borne diseases, such as the Heartland virus, babesiosis, and dengue fever, are found around the country in smaller numbers, with the highest numbers of cases reported during the warmer summer months. These diseases are transmitted when a mosquito or tick bites and feeds on the blood of its host, making it critical for steps to be taken to avoid being bitten in the first place. For Americans spending time enjoying their summer vacation in their backyards or traveling abroad, this means taking the time to brush up on the most effective means of prevention.
"It is essential that Americans understand how to protect themselves and their families, recognize the signs and symptoms of these diseases, and seek immediate medical attention if they are experiencing signs of infection," said Dr. Jorge Parada, medical spokesperson for the NPMA. "Common early signs of Lyme disease include one or more bull's-eye rashes anywhere on the body, joint pain, chills, fever, fatigue and headache. When it comes to West Nile virus, symptoms could include fever, headache and loss of appetite, or in more severe cases confusion and increasing weakness, although in 80 percent of cases, people may display little to no symptoms at all."
According to the NPMA, the top five ways to protect against mosquito and tick-borne illnesses include:
- Conduct a daily check for ticks: A blacklegged deer tick, the type of tick known for carrying Lyme disease, takes at least 24 hours to transmit the disease. That's why performing a daily, thorough check for ticks after spending time outdoors is essential in preventing the transmission of the disease. Just as important is knowing what to look for - and what to do if a tick is found. Blacklegged deer tick nymphs are typically around the size and color of a poppy seed, and if found should be removed right away using fine-tipped tweezers. Once removed, clean the area with soap, water and an antiseptic.
- Protect Your Skin: While it may be uncomfortable when temperatures soar, wearing long sleeves and pants in light colors can protect against mosquito and tick bites and can make checking for these pests much easier. Consider tucking pants into socks or investing in clothing pretreated with permethrin for an extra level of protection. In addition, always use an insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus when spending time outdoors or traveling, especially in areas known to have increased mosquito and tick populations.
- Inspect Your Property: Take a walk around your property to identify areas that may be conducive to mosquitoes and ticks. Keep patios and play areas away from shrubs, bushes and other vegetation and place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to detract ticks. Eliminate sources of standing water such as in birdbaths, flowerpots, grill covers and baby pools and screen all windows and doors, repairing even the smallest holes that could serve as entry points for pests.
- Protect Your Pets: Avoid walking pets in tall grass where there is a greater chance of ticks hitching a ride and check pets frequently for ticks, especially after the animal has been outside. Consult with a veterinarian about prevention and treatment options available to pets and wash pet bedding and toys frequently.
- Avoid Peak Activity Times: Mosquito activity is at its peak during dawn and dusk, so be sure to reduce the amount of time you spend outdoors during those times of day. If you must be outside during those times, consider staying inside a screened-in porch or dressing in clothing that leaves very little exposed skin. The best protection is insect repellent, which will help ward off both mosquitoes and ticks.
For more information on pest prevention, or to find a licensed pest professional, visit PestWorld.org.