Experts are warning to protect against biting insects this spring and summer, and to have insect repellent ready when spending time outdoors as disease transmission from common pests is on the rise.
A new study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found disease cases from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016. The National Pest Management Association is advising the public to take proper precautions to stay protected from these pests.
“One of the easiest things to do when it comes to tick and mosquito prevention is to wear insect repellent when you’ll be outdoors; this is just as important as applying sunscreen and can minimize contact with vector pests that can transmit dangerous diseases like West Nile virus, Lyme disease, Zika virus and more,” said Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA.
When it comes to insect repellent, the NPMA recommends one that’s EPA approved and contains at least 20 percent DEET, or has picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus. Be sure to spray over clothing and only after sunscreen is applied for it to be effective. Remember to follow directions, and reapply as directed on the label.
But prevention doesn’t end there. “There are many things that can be done around your home to avoid encounters with these biting pests, such as keeping grass cut low, reducing standing water and working with a pest professional to keep biting pests from infesting your home and property,” said Mannes.
The NPMA shares its mosquito and tick prevention tips to protect against bug and tick bites this season:
- Eliminate potential mosquito breeding grounds. Mosquitoes only need about a half an inch of stagnant water to breed, so even items the size of a bottle cap that collect water could be attracting mosquitoes. Flowerpots, birdbaths, baby pools, sand buckets, tires, children’s toys, grill covers and other objects where water collects can all be breeding hot spots for mosquitoes.
- To maintain a tick-free yard, keep grass cut low and remove weeds, woodpiles and debris, which can attract ticks and other pests. Keep shrubs, bushes and other vegetation well pruned, particularly around patios and play areas.
- Choose proper clothing. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes to limit exposure to mosquitoes and ticks. Wearing light-colored clothing will make it easier to spot ticks, too. Keep hair pulled back and under a hat.
- Screen all windows and doors, and patch up even the smallest tears or holes on screens.
- Avoid walking dogs in tall grass, where fleas and ticks often hide, and inspect pets for fleas and ticks on a routine basis. Just like humans, pets can contract Lyme disease from blacklegged ticks. They can also contract illness from mosquitoes. Pet owners should consult with their veterinarians and consider having animals on preventive treatments to help ward off and kill biting pests.
- Inspect yourself and your family members carefully for ticks after being outdoors. If you find a tick, remove it with a slow, steady pull to completely remove the mouthparts from the skin. Then, wash your hands and the bite site thoroughly with soap and warm water. Ticks should be flushed down a toilet or wrapped tightly in a tissue before being disposed of in a closed receptacle. Be on the lookout for signs of tick bites, such as a telltale red bull’s eye rash around a bite. If you suspect a tick has bitten you, seek immediate medical attention.
- If there are concerns about flea, mosquito or tick activity on the property, contact a licensed pest-control company.