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Fight the Bite - Summer Increases Risk of Mosquito and Tick Borne Illnesses

Worcester, MA (July 7, 2011) - Due to the high levels of rainfall this year, Worcester may experience significant levels of mosquito activity, increasing the risk of exposure to mosquito-borne diseases. Summertime is also when residents have to be cautious about Lyme disease, which is tick-borne.

To combat this risk, the City’s Division of Public Health launched the "Fight the Bite" campaign to promote education and awareness of insect-borne diseases in Worcester. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA-DPH) will also continue its mosquito surveillance program in order to properly monitor the City’s mosquito population for these diseases.

"Incidences of mosquito-borne West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis have been on the rise statewide the past few years, with two confirmed cases of West Nile in Worcester County in 2010. Incidence of the deer tick carried illness Lyme Disease has also increased with 420 cases in Worcester County out of the 4,028 Massachusetts cases in 2009," said Dr. B. Dale Magee, City’s Public Health Commissioner. "Although these diseases are usually not life-threatening, they can be quite serious, especially in children and seniors."

Many of the sports and recreational activities in which children and adults are likely to participate can occur during the evening and dusk hours, the time of the day when many kinds of mosquitoes are actively biting. Other mosquitoes feed during daylight hours. Physical exertion and sweating may also change individual attractiveness to mosquitoes and may decrease the time that repellents are effective.

By taking a few, common-sense precautions, people can help to protect themselves and their loved ones. The City’s Division of Public Health urges individuals to take simple steps to reduce their risks and ensure a fun and healthy summer season.

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning. Otherwise, take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing.
  • Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Although it may be difficult to do when it’s hot, wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
  • Apply Insect Repellent When You Go Outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age. Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin. More information on choosing a repellent can be found on the EPA’s website.
  • Prevent Ticks. Avoid wooded or tall grassy areas and wear repellent and proper clothing. Check your body after spending time outdoors and if you find a tick remove it immediately using fine point tweezers and wash the area with soap and water.
    • If the tick can be identified as a deer tick (Tick Identification Card), call your doctor.
    • If after removing a tick you begin experience any flu-like symptoms, fever or rash, especially a distinctive "bulls-eye" rash, call your doctor right away.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

  • Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or getting rid of items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.
  • Install or Repair Screens. Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

Information about WNV and reports of WNV activity in Massachusetts can be found on the MDPH website under A for arbovirus in the Health Topics A to Z index. Recorded information about WNV is also available by calling the MDPH Public Health Information Line at 1-866-MASS-WNV (1-866-627-7968).

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