The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) urges Ohioans to “fight the bite” and “be tick smart.” Anna McCoppin, the environmental health director at the Highland County Health Department, offered tips to curb mosquito and tick populations on private properties as well as ways to avoid bites while outdoors.
Though as of July 9, there were not any confirmed cases of mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus or La Crosse virus in Ohio, there were 77 confirmed cases of Lyme disease throughout the state, including one case in Fayette County, according to the ODH website. Also as of July 9, there were eight confirmed cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, including one in Pike County, and five cases of Ehrlichiosis, including one in Ross County. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichiosis are tick-borne diseases.
According to the ODH, the agency has noticed an increase in the number of cases involving tick-borne diseases in the past decade.
When traveling, McCoppin recommended that residents look into an area’s risk level for mosquito- and tick-borne diseases, which can be found through the CDC and state health departments.
“The best way to prevent these diseases,” McCoppin said, “is to prevent bites.”
According to McCoppin and the ODH, residents can limit their contact with mosquitoes where the insects can lay their eggs. By eliminating standing water that may collect in buckets, pools and littered items like soda cans, McCoppin said residents can decrease areas where mosquito larvae mature.
McCoppin also recommended removing leaf litter, where ticks could survive during the winter.
Though the Highland County Health Department does not currently track mosquito and tick populations, McCoppin said the health department does have resources on mosquitoes, ticks, and the diseases they can carry.
To avoid tick bites, the ODH recommends:
* Using EPA-approved tick repellents.
* Wearing long pants, long sleeves and long socks.
* Tucking pant legs into socks or boots and tuck shirts into pants to keep ticks outside clothing.
* Wearing light-colored clothing so ticks are more visible.
* Avoiding tall grass.
* Walking in the center of trails.
* Checking for ticks on your clothing, your gear and your pets before going indoors.
* Washing and drying clothing at high temperatures to kill ticks.
* Bathing or showering within two hours of coming indoors.
* Conducting a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and especially in their hair.
According to the ODH, the best method for removing ticks that are attached is to grasp the tick with fine-tipped tweezers as close to its head as possible, pull away from skin slowly — without twisting or jerking — and place the tick in alcohol or a sealed bag or container, or flush it down the toilet.
To avoid mosquito bites, the ODH recommends:
* Using EPA-approved insect repellents.
* Wearing light-colored clothing, long-sleeved shirts or jackets and long pants.
* Using mosquito netting while camping in the open air.
* Emptying standing water from flowerpots, buckets, barrels, tarps/covers and wheel barrows on a regular basis.
* Discarding trash such as tin cans, plastic containers and other water-holding containers that have accumulated on your property.
* Disposing of discarded tires properly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out.
* Changing the water in pet dishes frequently.
* Replacing the water in bird baths weekly.
* Checking and cleaning clogged roof gutters at least twice annually, so they may drain properly.
* Aerating ornamental pools or stocking them with mosquito-eating fish.
* Cleaning and chlorinating swimming pools, even those that are not being used.
* Keeping children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.
* Installing or repairing screens on windows and doors.
When bitten, McCoppin urged community members to monitor the bite and see their health provider immediately if necessary.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.