Protect Your Family From Diseases Spread by Summer Pests

Summer is the time to play outside, have fun in the sun, and enjoy the company of family and friends in the beautiful weather, but spending more time outdoors during peak insect season does increase the risk of you or a family member contracting an insect-borne disease.

Different areas of the country are hotspots for different diseases, but the most common diseases throughout the U.S. are West Nile virus and Lyme disease. The two vectors for transmitting these diseases to humans are mosquitoes which pass along West Nile virus and ticks which cause Lyme disease.

Many wooded areas in the Philadelphia suburbs are known to have high populations of ticks, and anyone living in the Northeast is familiar with the swatting and scratching of mosquitoes during the summer. Preventing insect-borne diseases is a mix of caution when spending time outdoors and awareness of possible symptoms.

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has great tips on their website for getting rid of ticks and mosquitoes before they have the chance to bite.

– Wear light-colored clothing to better see insects.
– Use bug spray with 20% DEET or more.
– Check for ticks after being outdoors.
– Eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes which include any areas of standing water.
– Be aware of the time of day, and don’t be out during peak insect activity from dusk to dawn.

If you or a family member is bitten by a mosquito or tick, the first step is not to panic. Not every species or every individual insect will carry disease. It is important to locate the bite area and recognize possible physical symptoms of each disease. Common symptoms for West Nile virus and Lyme disease from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are listed below. However, around 70 percent of those infected with West Nile virus may not even exhibit outward signs of illness. Lyme disease is also notorious for causing symptoms not listed because people have very diverse reactions to the infection.

West Nile virus

– Moderate symptoms
          – Fever with headache, body aches, joint pains
          – Vomiting, diarrhea, or rash
          – Fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months
– Severe  symptoms
          – Encephalitis or meningitis
          – Headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation
          – Coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis

Lyme disease

– Early lingering symptoms (3-30 days after bite)
          – Red, expanding “bull’s-eye” rash
          – Fatigue, chills, fever, headache
          – Muscle and joint aches,  or swollen lymph nodes
– Early disseminated symptoms (days to weeks after bite)
          – Additional “bull’s-eye” rashes
          – Bell’s palsy (loss of muscle tone in the face)
          – Severe headaches and neck stiffness
          – Pain and swelling in large joints such as knees
          – Shooting pains that may interfere with sleep
          – Heart palpitations
          – These symptoms may come and go
– Late disseminated symptoms (months to years after bite)
          – Approximately 5% of untreated patients may develop chronic
             neurological symptoms months to years after being infected.
          – Shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, and
             problems with short-term memory

If you feel that you or a family member is exhibiting symptoms of these or another insect-borne disease, contact your primary care physician or come in to ExpressMed for blood tests.