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Preparing for Mosquito & Tick Season 2018: What, When, and Where Are the Risks

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For most people, summer is a time for relaxing, exploring, and taking on outdoor adventures. However, many of these people, if not properly protected, will come in contact with some dangerous diseases, just by doing the activities they love.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns Americans that arboviruses (viruses transmitted via mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects) will be at an all time high for summer 2018. The number of possible diseases and the reason for their increase are numerous, but there is some key information you need to know to protect yourself from becoming infected this year.

There are numerous arboviruses found throughout the world, but only a dozen or so are prevalent in the United States. Some of these disease are zoonoses, meaning they originate from animals and are transmitted via insects, similar to outbreaks of swine flu in the past.

Symptoms for these viruses can vary from flu-like to severe, requiring immediate hospitalization. Here are the diseases most commonly found in, and anticipated for, this season the US, and the typical symptoms associated with them.

virus carrying tick

Heartland Virus

Based on the name you are likely able to deduce that this virus is most prominent in the midwest and southern states. It is spread primarily by the Lone Star tick. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea

Last year there were 30 reported cases of the Heartland Virus.

Anaplasmosis

Earlier cases of anaplasmosis in the US were reported in the mid 1990s, with the fatality rate rising in 2003. Annual reported cases of anaplasmosis have risen every year since, although the fatality rate has stayed low. This disease is spread via ticks and is typically found in the northeast, midwest, and southern region of the United States. Symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Malaise
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Cough
  • Confusion

Babesiosis

Cases of babesiosis in the US rose from 2011 to 2014. This virus is most common in the northeast and midwest, and is primarily reported in elderly patients. Babesiosis is transmitted via ticks. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills/sweating
  • Headache/body aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Contrary to its name, rocky mountain spotted fever is not found only in the Rocky Mountain region. This virus is localized to the midwest and the south, but cases have been reported scattered throughout the US. Like anaplasmosis, RMSF cases are on the rise, although the fatality rate has dropped. Symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain

Delayed treatment for RMSF can cause serious damage to blood vessels, putting patients at risk of needing amputation.

Rabbit Fever

Rabbit fever, also called tularemia, is a zoonoses spread from small, infected animals (like rabbits) and transmitted by ticks and deer flies. This is a highly contagious disease that causes a variety of ulcers on the skin, eyes, mouth, and lungs. Rabbit fever is rare, with 230 cases reported in 2016. It is more common in the midwest, but cases have been reported in nearly every state.

Powassan Virus

This virus is typical to the northeast and Great Lakes region in the US. Reporting for Powassan virus only began in 2007, but since then the highest number of reported cases were in 2016, with 21 cases. Powassan virus can be either neuroinvasive or non-neuroinvasive, with the former being more severe and causing encephalitis or meningitis. The symptoms for this tickborne disease are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Speech difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Permanent neurological damage

Plague

The plague is not just a thing of the past. Instances of the plague have been reported throughout history, with the earliest records beginning in the Middle Ages. In current times, the plague is still being transmitted by ticks in a few areas of the world, with some cases making it to the US. However, US cases are extremely rare, with only four patients being reported in 2016. Symptoms of the plague are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Painful lymph nodes
  • Blackened or dead skin and tissue
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory failure

Zika Virus

Perhaps the most recently well known arbovirus, zika virus peaked in severity for the United States in 2016. Most recently, the US regions most at risk for continued outbreaks are Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Although zika virus is typically transmitted via mosquitoes, it can also be transmitted sexually, causing risky pregnancies with increased rates of birth defects. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Red eyes
  • Muscle pain

West Nile Virus

West Nile virus made its way into headlines in 2012, when US cases more than quadrupled. Instances have been declining since then, but have not dropped to the low rates they were at from 2008 to 2011. While this virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, it comes from birds that migrate, spreading it wherever they travel to. West Nile virus is more common in the western and southwestern regions of the United States. Symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Stupor
  • Disorientation
  • Coma
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tremors
  • Vision loss
  • Numbness
  • Paralysis

It is of high importance that those with West Nile virus seek treatment immediately. Death occurs in 1 out of every 10 patients who develop the more serious symptoms.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most common arbovirus in the United States, and accounts of 82% of all tickborne diseases here. The CDC estimates that there are 300,000 cases of lyme disease annually, but only 35,000 are actually reported. This is because people are less likely to seek medical treatment for lyme disease and doctors do not always correctly diagnose it.

As a disease transmitted via ticks, lyme disease is most common in regions with heavy tick populations — the northeast and the midwest. Symptoms for lyme disease include:

  • A bullseye rash around the place of the original bite
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Facial palsy
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Dizziness
  • Nerve pain
  • Short term memory problems

Lyme disease can leave lasting symptoms and neurological damage, so seek medical treatment immediately if you believe you have been infected.

The states at the highest risk for arboviruses are those in the midwest and the south, but any state can become infected with any of these diseases should a host travel into that area.

Spread of mosquito and tickborne diseases typically peaks in the summer months, when these pests are most present. However, it is possible to get any of these diseases at any time, particularly lyme disease.

The best way to protect yourself against these diseases is to prevent getting bites. The CDC recommends using DEET bug repellents to keep pests away, however it is better to wear long clothing than it is to continually apply these products to your skin. Additionally, stay aware of any high-risk areas if you plan on travelling during the summer. The CDC will release risk warnings for those areas that are experiencing moderate or dangerous levels of infection.

Get an early start on keeping pests away from your home with a mosquito control treatment from Edge. Call us today for pest control in Orem and the surrounding area.

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