The North Carolina Division of Public Health is advising North Carolinians to “Fight the Bite” and take important precautions to protect against tick and mosquito bites during warm weather months.
“Ticks and mosquitoes are common in our state, and they carry bacteria and viruses that can cause serious infections,” said Dr. Carl Williams, State Public Health Veterinarian. “The best way to prevent illnesses associated with ticks and mosquitoes is to take protective measures, like using insect repellent and avoiding wooded, grassy or brushy areas.”
Tick- and mosquito-borne infections are commonly reported in North Carolina. Preliminary data show more than 800 cases of tick-borne diseases and more than 160 cases of domestically acquired and travel-associated mosquito-borne diseases were reported in the state in 2016.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis — a bacterial illness that can cause fever, headache and other flu-like symptoms — are all conditions that can be acquired by tick bites in North Carolina. Most diagnoses are reported from June through September, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever accounted for more than half of tick-borne diseases reported last year.
Approximately 94 percent of mosquito-borne infections reported in the state in 2016 were acquired during travel outside the continental United States, including 98 cases of Zika virus infection. To date, all reported cases of Zika in North Carolina have been associated with travel outside of the continental United States.
The most commonly reported mosquito-borne illnesses that are endemic to North Carolina, meaning they can be acquired in the state, are LaCrosse, West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis.
To “Fight the Bite” and reduce exposure to ticks:
-Avoid tick habitats, such as wooded, grassy or brushy areas.
-Use tick repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) on exposed skin and wear permethrin-treated clothing. Use caution when applying to children.
-Reduce tick habitats with selective landscaping techniques.
-If there is a tick attached to your body, carefully remove the tick by grasping it with fine-tipped tweezers as close as possible to your skin, then apply a steady, gentle pull until it releases.
To “Fight the Bite” and reduce exposure to mosquitoes:
-Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when outside. Use caution when applying to children.
-Install or repair screens on windows and doors, and use air conditioning if possible.
-Talk with your primary care provider or local health department if you plan to travel to an area where exotic mosquito-borne diseases occur. Always check your destination to identify appropriate prevention methods.
-Women who are pregnant should not travel to areas with risk of Zika. Women who are trying to get pregnant and their partners should avoid nonessential travel to areas with a CDC Zika travel notice.
-“Tip and Toss” – Reduce mosquito breeding by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths at least once a week.
For more information about diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks and recommended protective measures, visit epi.publichealth.nc.gov.