By Stephanie Thiede, RN
Public Health Nurse
The warmer months are upon us, and that means flowers will start to grow, the sun will shine…and unfortunately, the bugs will start to come out.
Our north central Wisconsin climate is home to both ticks and mosquitoes. These insects can in some cases spread or transmit disease to humans. The mosquito is responsible for the West Nile virus and is spread to humans after the insect has fed on an infected bird. In 2015, there were 9 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in the state. The Deer Tick is responsible for the disease carrying bacterium that causes Lyme disease. In 2015, there were 1,309 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Wisconsin. In serious cases, both diseases can cause permanent damage to the body and long-term disabilities.
To prevent exposure to mosquitoes:
- Use an insect repellant with 20-30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing.
- Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.
- Properly dispose of items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or discarded tires. Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.
- Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
- Trim tall grass and weeds since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during daylight hours.
The majority of people who become infected with West Nile virus do not show signs of illness or have mild flu-like symptoms. However, some do suffer from serious symptoms of high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, mental confusion, tremors, confusion, paralysis, and coma. The incidence of this virus is tracked by the state through reports of dead birds. All county residents have the responsibility of reporting a sick or dead crow, blue jay, or raven to the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610 or the Langlade County Health Department at 715-627-6250.
To prevent exposure to ticks:
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas with tall grass. If you do not wish to avoid these areas, try to stay on a cleared trail if possible.
- Check all areas of the body frequently and carefully for ticks. Keep in mind that deer ticks are small and may be difficult to find.
- Remove ticks promptly. Ticks have to bite and stay attached to the skin for one to two days to transmit Lyme disease.
- To remove them, use a thin-bladed pair of tweezers and grasp the tick as close as the skin as possible. Pull the tick backwards gently to remove and wash the area. Small tick parts imbedded in the skin may remain but usually shed without a problem. AVOID folk remedies designed to remove the tick like petroleum jelly, nail polish remover or burning matches as these methods are not reliable.
- Keep ticks out of your home and protect your pets by checking them before allowing them inside. Collars, tablets, topical ointments and a vaccine are available for protection against ticks. Talk to your vet to determine which option is best for your pet.
One symptom of Lyme disease is a characteristic “bulls-eye” rash at the original site of the tick bite. However, it is important to note that about 25% of people that become infected do not develop the rash. If someone lives or has spent time in areas where deer ticks are common and develops other symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, and pain in the muscles or joints, they should immediately consult their health care provider. Lyme disease must be treated with antibiotics, and treatment is more effective when detected early.
For information about West Nile virus, Lyme disease and other diseases in our community, contact Langlade County Health Department at 715-627-6250.