Diseases Transmitted By Insects
Most of you know that there is a slight chance of getting sick from a mosquito bite. I think everyone is somewhat familiar with the West Nile Virus. The thing is, that isn’t the only vector borne disease you need to be aware of. There are others and new ones are being introduced to the U.S. all the time. Now this does not mean that everyone should walk around in a panic wearing a Tyvek Suit! It just means be aware.
Mosquitoes and ticks are the most likely to transmit disease in this area. Below are a few of the diseases they carry as well as ways to protect yourself.
WEST NILE AND CHIKUNGUNYA VIRUSES
West Nile is spread by mosquitoes that have been infected by biting a bird with the virus. If you are bitten by a mosquito that is infected you may show signs 3 – 15 days after being bitten. Most people that get infected show no symptoms or very mild ones. Severe forms of the disease may include swelling of the brain, neck stiffness, muscle weakness and confusion. Only a doctor can tell you if you have the disease. There is no treatment for West Nile Virus but there is care that can be given to those with a severe illness.
Chikungunya is new to the United States. It is spread by mosquitoes that have bitten an infected person and then biting someone else. Once bitten by an infected mosquito you may see symptoms within 1 – 12 days. Those most at risk are people that travel to areas where the virus is found. This includes the Caribbean and South America. However, there have been cases of Chikungunya found in the United States this year. Most people that contract the virus will show symptoms. These include a fever of 102 degrees or higher and pain in the joints. You may also experience headache, nausea and vomiting. Only a doctor can tell you if you have Chikungunya or not. There is no specific treatment and there is no vaccine. Medicine can be given to help with the fever and joint pain.
Lyme Disease is carried and transmitted by ticks. The black-legged tick (or deer tick) to be exact. Ticks like damp, shady, leafy areas. They can be found in forests and heavily landscaped yards. A tick can attach to any part of the body but are often found in hard to see areas, such as the groin, armpit and scalp. In most instances a tick would have to be attached for a minimum of 36 hours before the Lyme Disease would be transmitted. Symptoms of Lyme Disease include a bulls-eye rash at the site of the bite. You may also have fever, headache, chills, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes. The longer the disease goes untreated, the worse the symptoms become. Things like facial palsy, meningitis, heart palpitations and arthritis can occur. Lyme Disease is treatable with antibiotics. However, 10 – 20% of patients that have Lyme Disease will continue to experience symptoms for months and even years after treatment.
Keeping yourself and your family safe from these illnesses may seem like a daunting task. But there are a few simple things that you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.
- Stay inside during peak mosquito times. (dusk to dawn)
- Use a bug spray containing DEET.
- Wear light colored, loose fitting pants and shirts with long sleeves.
- Keep grass cut and shrubs trimmed.
- Clean clogged roof gutters.
- Get rid of standing water.