While bug bites can certainly be an annoying part of the warmer weather months here in Lenawee County, they can actually be more dangerous than most people realize. Beyond the side effects of a bug bite (itching, swelling, pain, and redness), many insects are carriers of what we call vector-borne diseases.
What’s Vector-Borne Mean?
Vectors are mosquitos, ticks, and fleas that spread pathogens. A person who gets bitten by a vector and gets sick has a vector-borne disease. Some vector-borne diseases (like the plague) have been around for thousands of years! Others have been discovered more recently.
Most public health organizations work to prevent the spread of vector-borne diseases in their community. They do this through public engagement and the work of trained scientific specialists who monitor and track insects and diseases.
As in years past, the Lenawee County Health Department (LCHD) is participating in a Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance and Prevention Program in coordination with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). LCHD will be providing mosquito and tick monitoring data to MDHHS as well as use the surveillance data to notify the public of risks related to emerging vector-borne diseases.
What Critters Are The Biggest Culprits?
In our area, mosquitos and ticks are of the biggest concern, but you should also be on the lookout for fleas carried in by pets as well. Bites from these insects can transmit diseases like:
- Zika virus
- Lyme disease
- EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalitis)
- West Nile Virus
How Can I Fight the Bite?
All residents can take simple, everyday precautions to protect themselves against vector-borne illnesses that can be transmitted through mosquito and tick bites by doing the following:
- Use an EPA-approved insect repellent: When outdoors, use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and/or clothing. Always follow the directions on the package.
- Wear protective clothing: Wear long sleeves and pants when weather permits.
- Keep mosquitoes from laying eggs near you: Mosquitoes can lay eggs even in small amounts of standing water. Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, bird baths, kids’ toys/pools, and tires.
- Landscape for tick prevention: Keep the grass mowed, and remove leaf litter, brush, and weeds at the edge of the lawn.
- Consider pesticide application: Pesticides can be applied as targeted treatments to reduce mosquito and tick populations.
- Perform regular tick checks: Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but prefer body creases and areas with hair such as the groin, armpit, ankle, and scalp. Be sure to check yourself, your kids, and your pets for ticks after spending time outdoors.
- Submit a tick or ‘tick pic’: Submitting a picture of the offender to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services helps everyone in an effort to stop the spread of disease. Experts can help identify the type of tick that bit you!
- Download “The Tick App”: This new app that you can put on your phone shows you how to avoid ticks and tick-borne diseases.
For more information on vector-borne diseases and the creatures that carry them, visit our website.