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News from Wyoming Department of Health

Avoid Mosquitos and Ticks to Dodge Diseases They Spread

6/2/2014

While enjoying activities or working outdoors during Wyoming’s warmer months, residents should avoid mosquitos and ticks because they can spread potentially serious disease, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).

Mosquitos spread West Nile virus (WNV) when they feed on infected birds and then bite people, animals and other birds. Diseases passed on in Wyoming by infected ticks include tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) and Colorado tick fever (CTF).

Emily Thorp, WDH surveillance epidemiologist, said, “These diseases can be quite serious and have sometimes been deadly.”

Most people infected with WNV don’t have symptoms. Among those who become ill, symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes. A very small number develop West Nile neuroinvasive disease with symptoms such as severe headache, fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions and paralysis.

The “5 D’s” of West Nile virus prevention include:

1) DAWN and 2) DUSK - Mosquitos prefer to feed at dawn or dusk, so avoid spending time outside during these times.
3) DRESS - Wear shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt outdoors. Clothing should be light-colored and made of tightly woven materials.
4) DRAIN - Mosquitos breed in shallow, stagnant water. Reduce the amount of standing water by draining and/or removing.
5) DEET - Use an insect repellent containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide). When using DEET, be sure to read and follow label instructions. Other insect repellents such as Picaridin (KBR 3023) or oil of lemon eucalyptus can also be effective.

Thorp noted WNV activity is tough to predict. In Wyoming last year, 41 human WNV cases, including one death, were reported. Since WNV first appeared in Wyoming in 2002, reported human cases each year have ranged from two with no deaths to 393 and nine deaths.

“Tick exposure is common when we walk through, play or sit in brushy and grassy areas or handle certain animals,” Thorp said.

Tularemia symptoms can include fever, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, skin ulcers and diarrhea. If the bacteria are inhaled, symptoms can include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness and pneumonia. Initial RMSF symptoms may include fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, lack of appetite and severe headache. Later signs and symptoms may include rash, abdominal pain, joint pain and diarrhea. RMSF patients often require hospitalization. Colorado tick fever usually causes fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and, occasionally, a rash.

General recommendations to help avoid tick-related diseases include:

· Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks crawling on clothing.
· Tuck pant legs into socks.
· Apply insect repellents such as those containing 20 percent or more DEET and/or picaradin.
· Upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, search yourself and children for ticks and remove if found.
· Check pets for ticks; use tick control products recommended by veterinarians.

Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever” or “deer fly fever,” frequently affects rabbits, hares and
rodents and has been associated with rabbit die-offs. People may acquire tularemia when bit by infected ticks, deer flies or horse flies. It can also be transmitted by handling infected animals, or through ingestion or contact with untreated, contaminated water or insufficiently cooked meat.

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