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Environmental Health

It might be snowing, but it's still tick and mosquito season. Watch out!

It might be snowing, but it's still tick and mosquito season. Watch out!

Apr. 21, 2021

By Cameron Archer

In spite of the snow outside today, spring has bloomed, is apparently taking a brief hiatus and is due to return soon.

That means opportunities for outdoor recreation are increasing. Because the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on ways to get some exercise and have fun with friends, this is good news.

But while nature is great, it does offer some challenges. Vector surveillance season is upon us and after a year of COVID-19, Monongalia County Health Department’s Threat Preparedness program is adjusting its response to returning to our search for ticks, mosquitoes and other pests so that they can be tested for diseases.

So if you plan to spend some time outdoors, whether it’s your backyard, the rail-trail or a state forest, there are several steps you can take to avoid ticks and mosquitos, which can cause disease to people that they bite.

Ticks are small blood sucking bugs that attach to your skin. They carry diseases that can be harmful to you and your pets. The first thing you want to know how to do is to learn how to avoid ticks. Before you go outdoors, know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, bushy or wooded areas. Spending time outdoors, hiking, walking your dog or going on a camping trip are ways to become into close contact with ticks.

After you come indoors, check your clothing for ticks. You also should examine your pets, shower soon after being outside and check your body. Ticks like to go to warm areas of your body, so you want to double check under your arms, in and around your ears, inside your belly button, the backs of your knees, between your legs and, most importantly, your hair.

The best way to remove a tick if it is attached is to use tweezers. After you remove the tick, you want to thoroughly clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or with soap and water. The best ways to dispose of a tick after removal are to flush it down the toilet or to put it in alcohol. Never crush the tick with your fingers.

Ticks carry diseases that can be harmful to you or your pets. The main disease that ticks carry is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection that can affect both humans and pets. Another disease a tick can carry is Anaplasmosis. This is also a bacterial infection. You can find other diseases that ticks carry on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Almost everyone has been bitten by mosquitoes. But what is the best way to avoid them? Mosquitoes can bite at day and night and they are most commonly found in forests, marshes, or tall grass. All mosquitoes like being around water and they can live in standing water. That means if you can’t eliminate standing water from your property to avoid attracting mosquitoes, a product called Mosquito Dunks can safely keep them away. You should also wear mosquito repellent when outside.

When a mosquito bites you, it pierces your skin using a special piece of their mouth to suck up blood. When the mosquito is feeding it injects their saliva into your skin and that results in itching and a bump. People react differently to mosquito bites. The best thing to do after a mosquito bite is to wash your skin with soap and water and then apply an ice pack to reduce swelling and itching.

Mosquitoes are most known for carrying viruses. In West Virginia, mosquitoes can carry diseases including West Nile virus and lacrosse encephalitis. The CDC has a list of viruses and parasites that mosquitoes carry. It only takes a few infected mosquitoes in your area to start an outbreak that can put you and your family at risk. 

Tick and mosquito prevention is important around this time of the year. They start coming out when the weather gets warm so around spring is when they are the most active. Ticks last throughout the summer. The adult season peaks at the end of October and the risk of Lyme diseases rises again.

Mosquitoes emerge in late March and are a nuisance all of summer as long as the temperature stays above 50 degrees.

When you plan to be outdoors for a while don’t forget to wear your mosquito repellent and check for ticks when you get back indoors! 

Cameron Archer is a public information office intern at Monongalia County Health Department.

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