State Health Officials Advise North Carolinians to “Fight the Bite”

Last Updated on April 30, 2018 3:09 pm

Raleigh – April is Tick and Mosquito Awareness Month in North Carolina, and as the weather continues to warm up, state health officials are advising North Carolinians to “Fight the Bite” by taking measures to reduce their risk of tick and mosquito bites. Based on preliminary data, there were 896 cases of tick-borne diseases in North Carolina last year and 95 cases of domestically acquired and travel-associated mosquito-borne diseases.

“The best way to prevent the spread of tick-and mosquito-associated disease is to take protective measures, use insect repellent when outdoors for a prolonged time and avoid wooded or brushy areas,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Carl Williams.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis — a bacterial illness that can cause fever, headache and other flu-like symptoms — are all conditions that can be acquired by tick bites in North Carolina. Most diagnoses are reported June through September. Rocky Mountain spotted fever accounted for more than half of tick-borne diseases reported last year.

Nearly 70 percent of mosquito-borne infections reported in the state in 2017 were acquired during travel outside the continental United States, including nine cases of Zika virus infection. To date, all reported cases of Zika in North Carolina have been associated with travel outside of the continental United States. The most commonly reported mosquito-borne illnesses that can be acquired in North Carolina are LaCrosse, West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis.

To reduce exposure to tick bites:

  • Avoid tick habitats, such as wooded, grassy or brushy areas.
  • Use tick repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) on exposed skin and wear permethrin-treated clothing. Use caution when applying to children.
  • Reduce tick habitats with selective landscaping techniques.

A tick can be removed by grasping it with fine-tipped tweezers as close as possible to the skin and applying a steady, gentle pull until it releases.

To reduce exposure to mosquito bites:

  • Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when outside. Use caution when applying to children.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors, and use air conditioning if possible.
  • “Tip and Toss” to reduce mosquito breeding by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths at least once a week.

Checking travel destinations is also recommended to identify appropriate prevention methods. A person’s primary care physician or local health department should be consulted if traveling to an area where exotic mosquito-borne diseases occur. Women who are pregnant should not travel to areas with risk of Zika. Women who are trying to get pregnant and their partners should avoid nonessential travel to areas with a CDC Zika travel notice.

For more information about diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks and recommended protective measures, visit: Governor Roy Cooper’s proclamation of Tick and Mosquito Awareness Month can be viewed here.

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