You know it’s summertime when you’re outside and occasionally swatting at your arms or legs to shoo flying or crawling insects, especially mosquitoes and ticks, the bugs that public health officials are most concerned about right now.
“Those are the ones everybody is centered on,” said Eric J. Zgodzinski, director of the Toledo Lucas County Health Department’s community and environmental health division. “The best protection is to avoid them. We know we can’t be cooped up in the house forever, so we take measures to protect ourselves.”
Besides not wanting to be left with a bite that will itch, it’s important to keep mosquitoes and ticks away because both can carry diseases that can be transmitted when they bite people. Health authorities are largely concerned about mosquitoes carrying West Nile and chikungunya viruses. People are familiar with West Nile, which has been in the news for years.
West Nile doesn’t always make people seriously ill, as some people can fight it off. And though it can cause someone to become very sick, deaths are rare. However, the West Nile death of a Toledo woman, 57, last fall stunned health officials. The woman already had a disease that compromised her autoimmune system; her death was the first from West Nile here in more than a decade.
Although mosquitoes can carry different types of encephalitis, the newer concern is the chikungunya virus, Mr. Zgodzinski said. That mosquito-borne illness is transmitted by the Asian tiger mosquito, a black-and-white striped insect described as an aggressive biter in the daytime.
Deer and dog ticks have been a problem in Ohio, he said. Deer ticks transmit lyme disease while dog ticks can pass on Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
"We've always had ticks here and we try to control that the best we can," he said.
One way to make oneself unattractive to these insects is to wear long sleeves and light colored clothing, and try to avoid them as much as possible. Steer clear of mosquitoes by not being out at dusk and getting rid of standing water.
"It's important to ask too, ‘what do mosquitoes want?' They want standing water. Rinse out the bird bath periodically. Old tires are a great place for mosquitoes to breed," he said.
Take a walk around your house to look for places mosquitoes might hover and breed. Check eaves troughs after a summer rain. And if the situation looks particularly dire, get help to get it under control by calling the Toledo Area Sanitary District at 419-726-7891, he said.
It helps to keep ticks away by keeping your lawn mowed. When you go in for the day, check yourself, other family members, and everyone's clothes, and pets for the bugs. Check with your veterinarian to learn how best to protect pets.
When they attach to your body, "They get very engorged."
"If you find that they are attached, do not crush them, do not use a lighter, but take tweezers, put them at the base of the mouth part and just pull it out. Don't wiggle it. If you crush or burn it, the inside of the tick can contaminate your skin. If you handle a tick, make sure you wash your hands," Mr. Zgodzinski said.
"I don't want to stop people from walking in the woods, but you have to take precautions to make sure you don't get them attached to you. My job is to make sure people don't panic but to provide them information to take precautions."
Contact Rose Russell at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6178.