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For Release: June 10, 2010 
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

Health Officials Offer Tips to Prevent Mosquito and Tickborne Diseases

As more people enjoy the outdoor weather, there is a greater risk of exposure to diseases caused by ticks and mosquitoes. Each year, Oklahoma consistently ranks among those states with the highest number of reported cases of tickborne illnesses, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia.

In 2009, there were 494 cases of tickborne illnesses reported to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), including two deaths.  Thus far in 2010, 15 cases of tickborne illness have been reported in the state.

The OSDH advises persons who participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, bicycle trail riding, yard work, gardening, etc., to follow tick bite prevention precautions including the following:  
• Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to see.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks to deprive ticks of attachment sites.
• Wear closed-toe shoes, not sandals.
• Hikers and bikers should stay in the center of trails to avoid grass and brush.
• Check for ticks at least once per day, particularly along waistbands, in the armpits and groin area.
• Use a tick repellent with DEET on skin and clothing according to directions.
• Use a tick repellent with permethrin on clothing only and according to directions.

Some of the symptoms of a tickborne illness may mimic other diseases.  These symptoms include fever, headache (often severe), muscle aches, vomiting, and abdominal pain.  Other symptoms may include skin rash and swelling of the lymph nodes in the area of the tick bite.  Tickborne diseases can be treated successfully with early diagnosis and appropriate antibiotics.

Another “critter” that can transmit disease in Oklahoma is the mosquito, which is commonly known for transmitting West Nile virus (WNV).  Infection can cause severe and sometimes fatal illness. In 2009, there were 10 cases of WNV reported in Oklahoma and one death.

Some of the symptoms of WNV include sudden onset of fever, headaches, dizziness, and muscle weakness. Long-lasting complications can include difficulty concentrating, migraine headaches, extreme muscle weakness and tremors, and paralysis of a limb. Some of the neurological effects of WNV may be permanent.

Even though the highest risk months in Oklahoma for WNV exposure are July through October, everyone should start protecting themselves now against mosquito bites. Some precautions to take against mosquito bites include:
• Use insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors and according to product instructions, particularly if you are outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are more likely to bite.
• Repair or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
• Prevent items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots, and tires from holding standing water so mosquitoes don’t have a place to breed.
• Empty your pet’s outdoor water bowl and refill daily.
• Regularly clean leaves and debris from rain gutters to ensure they are not clogged.

If you experience symptoms consistent with a tickborne illness or WNV within 14 days after a tick bite, mosquito bite, or participating in outdoor activities, contact your physician immediately.

For information about tickborne illnesses and WNV, visit the OSDH Web site at http://ads.health.ok.gov and click on “Disease Information”.

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