Oswego County News Release
Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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June 8, 2007

Summer Weather Brings Risk of West Nile and Other Diseases

Summer is just around the corner, and families are spending time outdoors and enjoying the beautiful weather. Kathleen Smith, Public Health Director for the Oswego County Health department, reminds everyone to take precautions against mosquitoes and ticks while enjoying the outdoors.

Two of the most common diseases are Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks, and West Nile Virus, which is spread by mosquitoes.

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted through the bite of an infected deer tick. Ticks are active from mid-May to November and infected deer ticks can be found throughout New York State.

Lyme disease can have serious complications if not identified and treated early. The most noticeable early sign of Lyme disease is a rash resembling a bull's eye or solid patch. The rash usually, but not always, develops between 3 and 30 days after the tick bite. In some cases, no rash appears, while in other cases there are multiple rashes.

Other symptoms of early Lyme disease include fever, fatigue, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint pain. If you notice these signs or symptoms, consult a health care provider immediately.

West Nile Virus is caused by the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people who are infected with the virus will not have any type of illness. However, the virus can cause serious illness, and in some cases, death.

It is estimated that 20 percent of those who become infected will develop West Nile fever. Mild symptoms include fever, headache and body aches, and occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection, known as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis, include high fever, muscle weakness, stupor, and disorientation.

“There are simple precautions that you can take to reduce your chances of being bitten by mosquitoes and ticks,” said Smith. “Wear light-colored clothing, and long sleeves and pants that are loose fitting, to help prevent mosquito bites. They will help keep ticks off your skin and make it easier to see ticks on yourself or your children.”

You may want to consider using insect repellent, but carefully read and follow all label directions. Do not allow children to apply repellent to themselves.

“Check the label of the repellent to see what it is designed to repel, and for how long. Ticks may be more difficult to repel than mosquitoes,” Smith said.

There are many kinds of repellents on the market, such as products containing DEET, permethrin, picaridin and a variety of botanical oils. If you decide to use a repellent, choose one that is right for conditions.

Do not attempt to remove ticks by using petroleum jelly, kerosene, lit cigarettes or other home remedies. If you find a tick attached to your body, remove it by taking the following steps:

  • Using tweezers, grasp the tick near the mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible.

  • Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick.

  • Pull the tick in a steady, upward motion away from the skin.

  • After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site with soap, rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

  • Contact your health care provider if you have any concerns about incomplete tick removal. Record the date and location of the tick bite. If a rash appears or you experience flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider.

There are also steps that you can take around your home to reduce the number of ticks and mosquitoes.

  • Eliminate breeding areas for mosquitoes by emptying standing water in buckets, flower pots, children's wading pools and other containers.

  • Install or repair window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

  • Control brush and leaf litter, which are preferred tick habitats.

  • To protect children from ticks, keep play areas and playground equipment away from shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation.

One of the ways that health officials track the presence of West Nile Virus is by testing dead crows. To report dead birds, particularly dead crows, contact the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3564 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3564, or call 1-866-537-BIRD.

For more information on how to reduce your risk for Lyme disease and West Nile Virus, visit the New York State Department of Health web site at www.nyhealth.gov.

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