The hot weather of summer sees an increase in diseases carried by the bites of vectors like ticks, fleas and mosquitoes. Vectorborne diseases are a major cause of illness and death worldwide. Vectors are insects that feed on blood and when they bite people or animals they transmit diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2004-2016 a total of 642,602 cases of 16 diseases caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites transmitted by bites of mosquitoes, ticks and fleas were reported to the CDC. However, it is believed that many more cases were not reported, so the numbers may be much higher.
Diseases Transmitted by Ticks Doubled Between 2004-2016
During this 13-year period between 2004-2016, diseases transmitted by ticks more than doubled and made up 77% of all the vectorborne disease reports. Lyme disease made up 82% of all the diseases transmitted by ticks, although other diseases from tick bites like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever rickettsioses, babesisis and anaplasmosis/ehrlichiosis also increased. The eastern continental United States and the Pacific coastal areas were the main sites for tick transmitted diseases.
Diseases Transmitted by Mosquitoes
Diseases from mosquitoes like dengue, chikungunya and Zika were mainly from Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands, but the major disease carried by mosquitoes, the West Nile Virus was distributed widely all over the United States.
The main worldwide disease from mosquitoes is malaria and fortunately, like Yellow fever, is not found in the United States, but these diseases could be reintroduced into the US.
Preventing Vectorborne Diseases
Unfortunately, there are no vaccines for any of these vectorborne diseases except for a vaccine for the Yellow Fever virus. Also, Lyme disease and West Nile virus are also present in large numbers in animals like birds and rodents and resistance to insecticides is increasing, so it is much more difficult to get rid of these vectors.
The main way to prevent diseases from these vectors is by applying insect repellants, but they should not be used on babies under two months of age. The CDC says to use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellants that have been proven to be safe even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The EPA has a web page that can help you choose the repellant that is best for you.
Common repellants are:
- Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US)
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
Advice for the Safe and Effective use of Insect Repellants
Always read the package label before using an insect repellant.
Insect repellants must not be used on babies under two months of age.
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and Para-menthane-diol (PMD) must not be used on children under the age of three and should be used with caution in the elderly.
- Do not put insect repellant directly on open wounds and cuts.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands. Make sure the insect repellant is not put in the eyes or mouth of a child or directly on cut or irritated skin. Do not spray or put insect repellant directly on to the face of a child, but adults should first spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Do not use any insect repellant that contains ingredients you may be allergic to.
- If you also use sun-screen, apply it first and then apply the insect repellant.
- Repellants should not be used on skin that is covered by clothes.
More Tips to Prevent Bites by Ticks, Fleas and Mosquitoes.
- Household pets should be treated to kill any fleas, eggs or ticks. It may be necessary to treat a wide area inside the home if your pet has been infested.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants or tights when outdoors.
- Wear closed shoes or boots rather than sandals.
- Use mosquito netting over infant cribs and strollers and prams. Make sure there are no holes in it.
- Make sure you have good screens on all the windows.
- Use a yellow light outdoors to repel flying insects.
- Use an electric bug zapper in your home. This will attract flying insects that will be electrocuted.
- Clothes and camping gear can be treated with permethrin, but permethrin must never be allowed contact directly on the skin. You can buy camping gear that has been pre-treated with permethrin.
The longer a tick is attached and sucking blood, the greater is the chance to catch a disease from the tick. First liberally apply vegetable, mineral or castor oil to the tick and then remove it with a tweezers. Make sure the head has not been left inside the wound. It is best to wear disposable gloves to do this, as the tick may burst and release blood on your hands that may be infected with diseases. Be sure to clean the tick bite area with alcohol and apply iodine or some kind of wound treating disinfectant. If the tick is still alive seal it in a plastic bag, wrap it in tape, burn it on top of the stove or put it in the toilet with bleach or strong detergent and flush it down the toilet.
More about Lyme Disease
According to the CDC, recent estimates suggest that approximately 300,000 people may get Lyme disease each year in the United States. Lyme disease is transmitted by bites from black legged ticks. Untreated Lyme disease can produce a many kinds of symptoms, depending on the stage of infection. These may include fever, chills, fatigue, skin rashes, headaches, shortness of breath, coughing, nausea, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, stiff necks, arthritis, memory problems and facial paralysis with a drooping side of the face which should not be confused with a stroke. Lyme disease can also infect the heart causing lyme carditiis that can produce an irregular heart beat and palpitations. Lyme carditis can lead to heart block, be life-threatening and lead to sudden cardiac death. Seek medical attention immediately if you observe any of these symptoms and have had a tick bite, live in an area known for Lyme disease, or have recently traveled to an area where Lyme disease occurs.
When caught early Lyme disease can usually be cured by using antibiotics like doxycycline prescribed by your doctor for a few weeks or longer.
Choose a Rehab and Skilled Nursing Facility that is Spotlessly Clean
When looking for a nursing home or rehab for yourself or your loved one take a good look around to make sure it is clean and free from bugs. Ask to see the kitchen, the bedroom and bathroom. The Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in scenic Galloway Township, New Jersey is a beautiful 5-star rehab and skilled nursing home that offers lovely clean, tastefully furnished rooms with a private bathroom in each room.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Better to use insect repellants than to get a vector transmitted disease.