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Health Department says to protect yourself when spending time outside

Pa. Secretary of Health warns about the dangers of ticks and mosquitoes

HARRISBURG — The Department of Health is reminding 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,” Pennsylvania 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.

The health department says people are at risk of getting a tick any time they are outside, including in wooded and bushy areas, areas with high grass and leaf litter and even in their own yards.

The health department recommended the following ways to reduce risk:

¯ 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.

Those who have been bitten by a tick, should make sure to monitor the area for any kinds of symptoms and contact their health care provider immediately, the health department said. Symptoms of Lyme disease can include a red, swollen bull’s-eye shape rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes.

Ticks and mosquitoes can also carry West Nile virus. In 2019, there were seven total human cases of West Nile virus reported in Pennsylvania. 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 fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.

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 health department said the best way to prevent being 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. The health department said it is also important to reduce the amount of standing water near homes by cleaning the gutters, 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. Doing so, the health department said, would reduce the places mosquitoes could gather and breed, thereby limiting the spread.

The health department recommends anyone having symptoms consistent with those caused from an insect or tick bite to contact their health care provider right away. For more information on ticks and Lyme disease, or on mosquitoes and West Nile virus, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health website or follow the health department on Facebook and Twitter.

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