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WDH: Avoid ticks, mosquitoes and the diseases they carry

Jun 30, 2015 From staff reports

During Wyoming's warmer months, the Wyoming Department of Health is reminding residents to avoid mosquitoes and ticks when spending time outdoors, because the insects can carry potentially serious diseases.

Mosquitoes spread West Nile virus when they feed on infected birds and then bite people, animals and other birds.

In Wyoming, diseases passed on by infected ticks include tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Colorado tick fever.

West Nile virus

In Wyoming last year, five human West Nile virus cases were reported. Since West Nile virus first appeared in Wyoming in 2002, reported human cases each year have ranged from two with no deaths to 393 and nine deaths.

Clay Van Houten, WDH epidemiologist and Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit manager, said there also have been rare but serious cases of tickborne diseases reported in Wyoming over the years.

Van Houten said most people infected with West Nile virus don't have symptoms. Among those who become ill, symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes. A small number develop West Nile neuroinvasive disease with symptoms such as headache, fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions and paralysis.

The "5 D's" of West Nile virus prevention include:

1) DAWN and 2) DUSK --Mosquitoes prefer to feed at dawn or dusk, so avoid spending time outside during these times.

3) DRESS --Wear shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt outdoors. Clothing should be light-colored and made of tightly woven materials.

4) DRAIN --Mosquitoes breed in shallow, stagnant water. Reduce the amount of standing water by draining and/or removing.

5) DEET --Use an insect repellent containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide). When using DEET, be sure to read and follow label instructions. Other insect repellents such as Picaridin (KBR 3023) or oil of lemon eucalyptus also can be effective.

"While we know factors such as weather and presence of water can affect West Nile virus activity, it is still tough to predict what to expect for an upcoming season," Van Houten said. "Tick exposure is common when we walk through, play or sit in brushy and grassy areas or handle certain animals."


Tularemia symptoms can include fever, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, skin ulcers and diarrhea. If the bacteria are inhaled, symptoms can include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness and pneumonia.

Tularemia, also known as "rabbit fever" or "deer fly fever," frequently affects rabbits, hares and rodents and has been associated with rabbit die-offs.

People may acquire tularemia when bit by infected ticks, deer flies or horse flies. It can also be transmitted by handling infected animals.

Tick-related diseases

Initial Rocky Mountain spotted fever symptoms may include fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, lack of appetite and severe headache. Later signs and symptoms may include rash, abdominal pain, joint pain and diarrhea.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever patients often require hospitalization.

Colorado tick fever usually causes fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and, occasionally, a rash.

General recommendations to help avoid tick-related diseases include:

- Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks.

- Apply insect repellents such as those containing 20 percent or more DEET and/or Picaradin.

- Upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, search yourself and children for ticks and remove if found.

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