Tiny ticks, mosquitoes big-time risks to health throughout summer


By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

alcorn@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Ticks and mosquitoes. They are the bane of summer outdoor activities in Northeast Ohio.

Ticks are arachnids, relatives of spiders, that lurk in wooded areas, brushy fields, along trails and around homes waiting for a host – a human or their pet to come by and provide a meal.

Mosquitoes, especially from dusk to dawn, come out in clouds that cause those in backyards to dive for their screened-in porches, and fishermen hustle off the water and sit around the fire for awhile and hoist a couple of beverages while the flying, buzzing, stinging hoard somewhat disperses.

Ticks and mosquitoes are not just nuisances, however.

They can carry diseases that cause serious and sometimes fatal viruses.

There are several tick-borne diseases in Ohio, where populations of some of the pests are growing rapidly.

Among them are Lyme disease and Spotted fever rickettsiosis, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick.

Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash commonly called the “bull’s-eye” rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system, ODH officials said.

Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, including physical findings, such as a rash, and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics.

Lyme disease occurs primarily in the Northeastern and upper Midwest regions. Ohio is located between these two regions where, in the past, fairly low occurrence of Lyme disease was reported. However, in recent years black-legged tick populations in Ohio have increased dramatically and their range continues to expand, particularly in the forest habitats preferred by this tick, ODH reported.

Ticks are parasites that survive by feeding on the blood of animal hosts, including humans. Through their feeding, ticks may transmit diseases that can result in mild to serious illness or death, the state health department reported.

Proper protection from ticks and prompt removal are crucial to preventing infection, said Eric Barrett, educator for the Mahoning County Ohio State University Extension office in Canfield. The office telephone number is 330-533-5538.

Deer and dog ticks are the main tick concerns in the Mahoning Valley, Barrett said.

“If people find a tick on their body or that of a pet, they should remove it as soon as possible. The OSU Extension office will identify the tick for them if they bring it to the extension office lab, and then they should contact their health care provider for advice,” Barrett said.

After an outdoor experience in areas that may have ticks, people should be diligent about inspecting themselves and their children, especially their heads, he said.

The best protection against tick- and mosquito-borne diseases is prevention, Barrett said.

For mosquitoes, which may carry the West Nile and Zika viruses, remove or clean out items with standing, stagnant water in which mosquitoes lay their eggs, such as old tires, bird baths, kiddie pools and children’s toys, he said.

West Nile virus, an infectious disease spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds, in a small percentage of infected persons causes fever, headache, muscle weakness, and sometimes encephalitis or meningitis.

Even though the Mosquito-borne Zika virus, which can cause birth defects, is not as prevalent as last year, pregnant women are still urged not to travel to countries or areas with even a few reported cases.

The mosquito’s life cycle, from egg to adult, takes an estimated eight to 10 days.

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