The Department of Health reminded Pennsylvanians that as they continue to spend more time outdoors this summer, it is important to take proper steps to protect against tick and mosquito bites.
“Ticks and mosquitoes can carry dangerous diseases that can severely impact an individual’s health if not treated properly,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “It is essential that all residents know the proper ways to protect themselves against these serious diseases so they do not get sick. We encourage all Pennsylvanians to get outside and be healthy but do so in the safest way possible.”
Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks. In 2019, there were 9,009 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania. Over time, if not treated, Lyme disease can lead to severe symptoms that affect the heart, nervous system and joints.
You are at risk of getting a tick any time you are outside, including in wooded and bushy areas, areas with high grass and leaf litter, and even in your own yard. This is why it is important to take steps to decrease your chances of getting bitten. To reduce your chances of a tick bite:
- Walk in the center of trails and avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter;
- Use a repellent that contains at least 20% DEET;
- Wear light-colored clothing;
- Conduct full-body tick checks on yourself and on your pets after spending time outdoors; and
- Take a bath or shower within 2 hours after coming indoors.
If you have been bitten by a tick, make sure to monitor the area for any kinds of symptoms and contact your health care provider immediately. Symptoms of Lyme disease can include:
- A red, swollen bulls-eye shape rash;
- Muscle and joint aches; and
- Swollen lymph nodes.
West Nile virus is another dangerous disease that Pennsylvanians should be aware of. In 2019, there were seven total human cases of West Nile virus reported in the state. Mosquitoes that transmit West Nile breed in areas with standing water. Most people infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms, but about one in five will have symptoms that resemble other illnesses, which might include:
- Body aches;
- Joint pains;
- Diarrhea; or
West Nile virus can also lead to other serious conditions like encephalitis (brain swelling) or meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain). Other severe symptoms can include neck stiffness, confusion disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
The best way to protect yourself from getting bitten by West Nile-infected mosquitoes is to wear insect repellent containing DEET during the April to October mosquito season, especially during dusk and dawn when many mosquitoes are actively feeding. It is also important to reduce the amount of standing water around your home. Cleaning the gutters on your house, emptying any outside containers, turning over any plastic pools and wheelbarrows when they’re not being used and using landscaping to get rid of standing water that collects around your property are all ways to decrease the number of mosquitoes with West Nile virus.