Small bugs can cause big problems

The summer weather we have all been waiting for is finally here! After the long and cold winter you may be anxious to get outside and enjoy the beautiful parks, beaches, and campsites of Sheboygan County. Before you run out the door, remember to apply insect repellent to protect your family and pets from insect bites and illnesses common in our area.

Lyme disease is caused by infection with bacteria through blacklegged tick bites. Adult blacklegged ticks are the size of a sesame seed, while young ticks are no bigger than a poppy seed making them difficult to spot. While it is impractical to completely avoid tall grass and wooded areas home to these pests, these are a few of the Centers of Disease Control recommended prevention tips that may reduce your chance of infection.

  • Conduct a full body tick check upon returning from a tick-infested area. Be sure to check under arms, inside ears, inside belly button, behind knees, between legs and especially on the scalp
  • Remove attached ticks with even upward pressure using a fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible (infection takes at least 24 hours of attachment, prompt location and removal greatly reduces risk of disease).
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, and then attach to a person later.
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks

The most distinct symptom of Lyme disease is a bull’s eye shaped rash at the site of the tick bite. Other symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle and joint aches that begin to appear 3-30 days post-bite. If you had a tick bite and observe any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention.

West Nile Virus is spread by infected mosquitoes to humans and animals. Mosquitoes are infected by biting infected birds, the main source for the virus. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wisconsin reported 17 severe cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) in 2013, two resulting in death.

About 1 in 5 people infected with WNV will develop a fever along with other symptoms such as headache, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash. Only 1 percent of those infected develop a serious illness with swelling of the brain and surrounding tissues. Children, elderly, and those with other medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease are at higher risk for serious illness.

There is no treatment for WNV; therefore, it is important for you to take preventative measures to prevent infection. Use insect repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET on exposed skin and over thin clothing. Using indoor air conditioning, installing window and door screens, and removing standing water can further decrease risk for WNV exposure.

So as you are making the most of your time in the sun, remember to take the necessary steps to keep your family healthier and happier this summer.

 Elissa Halla is an Area Health Education Center intern at the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health.