STATE: Health officials advise to ‘Fight the Bite’
As the weather continues to warm up, state health officials urge North Carolinians to “Fight the Bite” by taking measures to reduce their risk of tick- and mosquito-borne infections. Preliminary data generated by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health indicate that in 2020, there were 957 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of tick-borne diseases in North Carolina and 46 cases of domestically acquired and travel-associated mosquito-borne diseases.
“Ticks and mosquitoes are common in our state and can carry bacteria and viruses that can cause serious infections,” said Alexis M. Barbarin, Ph.D., state public health entomologist. “While COVID-19 is still at the forefront of our minds, residents of North Carolina who experience a fever-like illness this summer should also consider recent tick exposure and the possibility of tick- or mosquito-borne illnesses. The best way to prevent illnesses associated with ticks and mosquitoes is to take protective measures, like using DEET and other insect repellents and avoiding wooded, grassy or brushy areas.”
Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis (SFR), Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis — bacterial illnesses that can cause fever, headache and other flu-like symptoms — are all conditions that can be acquired by tick bites in North Carolina, with most cases reported in June through September.
More than 60 percent of mosquito-borne infections reported in the state in 2020 were acquired during travel outside the continental United States. The most commonly reported mosquito-borne illnesses that can be acquired in North Carolina are La Crosse, West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis.
To reduce exposure to tick bites:
• Avoid tick habitats, such as wooded, grassy or brushy areas.
• Use tick repellent that contains DEET (or other EPA approved repellents) on exposed skin and wear permethrin-treated clothing. Use caution when applying to children.
• Reduce tick habitats with selective landscaping techniques.
• A tick can be removed by grasping it with fine-tipped tweezers as close as possible to the skin and applying a steady, gentle pull until it releases.
To reduce exposure to mosquito bites:
• 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 when possible.
• “Tip and Toss” to 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.
• Travelers should take special care to prevent mosquito bites when traveling. Information on the prevention of malaria while traveling can be found at www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers/index.html.