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Tickborne and Mosquitoborne Disease Prevention
Ticks feed on blood from mammals (including humans). In order to feed, ticks wait on grass and other vegetation on the ground until the human or animal host walks by. Using their front legs, the ticks climb on to the host and feed. Although only a small percentage of these ticks are infected with disease causing bacteria, numerous tickborne illnesses including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia are reported each year. These diseases are transmitted most commonly during the feeding process.
Please use the links below for additional information about selected tickborne diseases:
Mosquitoborne diseases occur when a mosquito that is carrying a virus or a parasite bites a person and makes them sick. While there are many different types of mosquitoes in Oklahoma and worldwide, not all mosquitoes carry viruses or parasites that make people sick.
Several diseases transmitted by the bite of a mosquito include West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, LaCrosse encephalitis, and Western Equine encephalitis. Mosquitoes pick up the organism when they feed on infected animals. The organism is then transmitted to humans or animals while feeding.
Some mosquitoborne diseases are found in other parts of the world. Yellow fever is found in tropical South America as well as in sub-Saharan Africa. There is a vaccine that travelers may get to protect them from becoming sick. Dengue Fever is found in Africa, Southeast Asia, Western Pacific regions, Eastern Mediterranean, Latin America, and Caribbean. Recently, Dengue Fever has also been reported in the Florida Keys and parts of southern Florida. Malaria is another mosquitoborne disease that is caused by a parasite that infects the blood. It is currently a problem in tropical or subtropical areas of Asia, Africa, Central and South America, parts of the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific. Travelers to these areas should talk with their doctors about taking prescription medication to prevent them from getting malaria.
Be aware of peak exposure times and places. Exposure to mosquito and tick bites may be reduced by modifying patterns of activity or behavior. Although mosquitoes may bite at any time of day, peak biting activity for mosquitoes carrying some diseases (such as dengue and chikungunya) is during daylight hours. Mosquitoes carrying other diseases (such as malaria) are most active in twilight periods (dawn and dusk) or in the evening after dark. Avoiding the outdoors or focusing prevention activities during peak hours may reduce risk. Place also matters; ticks are often found in grasses and other vegetated areas.
Wear appropriate clothing. When weather permits, people can minimize areas of exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, boots, and hats. Tucking in shirts, tucking pants into socks, and wearing closed shoes instead of sandals may reduce risk. Insect repellents, such as permethrin, can be applied to clothing and gear for added protection.
Check for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, which even includes your back yard. Prompt removal of attached ticks can prevent some infections.
Optimum protection can be provided by applying insect repellents to clothing and exposed skin. Products containing the following active ingredients typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection.
Repellent efficacy. Published data indicate that repellent efficacy and duration of protection vary considerably among products and among mosquito species. Product efficacy and duration of protection are also markedly affected by ambient temperature, level of activity, amount of perspiration, exposure to water, abrasive removal, and other factors. In general, higher concentrations of active ingredient provide longer duration of protection, regardless of the active ingredient. Products with <10% active ingredient may offer only limited protection, often 1–2 hours. The concentration of different active ingredients cannot be directly compared (that is, 10% concentration of one product doesn’t mean it works exactly the same as 10% concentration of another product). Studies suggest that concentrations of DEET above approximately 50% do not offer a marked increase in protection time against mosquitoes. Regardless of what product is used, if people start to get insect bites they should reapply the repellent according to the label instructions, try a different product, or, if possible, leave the area with biting insects. Also, choose a repellent that provides protection for the amount of time that you will be outdoors. Search for a repellent that is right for you by clicking here.
Precautions that should be taken when using insect repellents.
Mosquitoborne Disease Prevention Fact Sheet (148k pdf)
Tickborne Disease Prevention Fact Sheet (121k pdf)
Insect Repellent Fact Sheet (120k pdf)
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