What You Need to Know about Bugs and Disease This Summer
Bugs Are Making History
It’s been a pesky summer. The spring started with an above-average concentration of ticks, and now that we’re in the thick of summer, mosquitoes are starting to barge their way into our picnics and baseball games. Unfortunately, these bugs are so much more than annoying.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites have tripled in the U.S., with more than 640,000 cases reported during the 13 years from 2004 through 2016.” The growing number of mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas throughout the United States, combined with increased travel to other countries, has increased the incidence of what were once considered very rare diseases. This growing public health threat has caught much of the population off guard.
Of the many documented vector-borne diseases, Zika, West Nile, Lyme disease, and chikungunya are presenting the highest concerns. While most cases can be successfully treated, a small percentage of patients experience chronic or life-threatening symptoms that can devastate their lives and families. Zika, in particular, can cause microcephaly and other serious birth defects if a pregnant mother becomes infected.
What’s Being Done & What You Can Do
Since these diseases are increasing at a rapid rate, and since it’s so hard to control human contact with mosquitos and ticks, the United States is not fully prepared to handle the crisis. The CDC seeks to build public health programs that test for and track the diseases while educating the public about prevention. However, in the meantime, local communities must act now to decrease the spread of bug-borne germs. Parks and other public places may choose to spray for insects and ticks, but it’s impossible to predict every location where people may encounter a threat. Protecting one’s own family from bites is the best first line of defense.
According to the CDC, taking the following steps can significantly reduce your risk:
- Use insect repellent.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Treat items, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents, with permethrin or use permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
- Take steps to control ticks and fleas on pets.
- Find and remove ticks daily from family and pets.
- Take steps to control mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas inside and outside your home.
If you have any concerns about your exposure to insect-borne illnesses, contact your family physician for an appointment, and keep yourself protected this summer!
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