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Public health officials offer tips on keeping bugs at bay

Press release:

The Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming county health departments are encouraging residents to “Think Health.” Taking time to think about your health and taking positive health steps will lead to healthier outcomes. Learning something new every day is one way to “Think Health”…

Summer allows more time for children to play outdoors, but when kids are covered with bug bites after spending time outside, parents may start to worry about disease spread by mosquitos, such as West Nile Virus (WNV), or by ticks, such as Lyme disease. Luckily, parents can take simple steps to prevent bites and diseases spread by bugs.

Take action

One case of WNV has already been confirmed in a mosquito pool (collection and testing of at least 50 adult mosquitos) in New York State this year. Prevent WNV and other mosquito-borne diseases by using insect repellant, wearing long sleeves and pants when practical, screening windows and draining standing water. Typically the mosquitos that transmit WNV breed in very small and dirty pools of water (as opposed to ponds and lakes). Common breeding sites include old tires, roof rain gutters, bird baths, wheelbarrows, and any other item that will hold small amounts of water for several days.

Choose an effective insect repellant

Parents may feel overwhelmed by the many products in the grocery aisle, wondering which ones are best. The national Center for Disease Control recommends a variety of effective products to avoid mosquito bites. Check the label for one of the following active ingredients:

-DEET

-Picaridin

-IR 3535

-Oil of lemon / eucalyptus

Most pediatricians recommend using products with 30 percent or less of these ingredients on kids. Once you’ve bought an insect repellent, use is whenever you and your children are outdoors. Put a few bottles or packets of repellent anywhere you might need them – in the car, by the door, in your bag. Make it easy so you’ll remember!

Most individuals, 70 to 80 percent, who contract WNV do not develop any symptoms. Those who do develop symptoms, about 1 in 5, will experience a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash for several weeks or months. In rare cases, less than 1 percent, experience serious neurological illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).

Make your backyard a tick-free zone

While often thought that ticks only live in the woods, ticks also can lurk in backyards. You can take some simple steps to make your backyard more tick-safe. Keep patios, play areas, and playground equipment away from scrubs, brushes, and other vegetation. Also, tick control chemicals are available for use by homeowners, or can be applied by a professional pest control expert.

Check for ticks

After playing outside, don’t make ticks an uninvited guest into your home. Ticks can ride in on parents, kids, and even the family pet, so check your gear and pets as soon as you get inside, even if your outdoor adventures were only in the backyard.

  1. Parents should check themselves and their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and especially in the hair. As soon as you find a tick, remove it using fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skins surface as possible. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers. If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, your chance of getting Lyme disease is extremely small. But to be safe, watch for signs or symptoms such as rash or fever and see a doctor if they develop.

Bathing when you get inside can also help you find ticks and remove them. Additionally, you can tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill any remaining ticks.

By following simple prevention steps, parents and kids can keep pests away so they can focus on fun outdoor activities like gardening, camping, hiking and just playing.

For more information about vector-borne diseases (transmitted by mosquitos, ticks, and fleas) visit the following website: http://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dvbd/

For information about health department services contact,

Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5000, or visit their Web site at www.co.genesee.ny.us/departments/health/index.html. Visit Facebook at Genesee County Health Department and Twitter @GeneseeCoHealthDept.

Orleans County Health Department at: 589-3278 or check out their Web site at:  www.orleansny.com/publichealth. Visit Facebook and Twitter: the user name for both is OrleansCoHealth.

Wyoming County Health Department at: 786-8890 or visit their Web site at www.wyomingco.net/health/main.html

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