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Published on July 03, 2019

Make Plans to Prevent Insect-Borne Illness This Summer

Health care providers are encouraging everyone to be ready for an insect-intense summer when germ-carrying mosquitoes and ticks will be abundant.

“From West Nile virus to Lyme disease, bugs can spread serious disease. You need to protect yourself and your family,” said Avera Medical Group family practitioner Carilyn Van Kalsbeek, MD. “I recommend DEET-based products because they are proven to protect.”

Avoid being outside in early morning and dusk when mosquitos are most active, and wear long-sleeves and long pants, Van Kalsbeek recommends.

“The species of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus is here – in our area,” said Jawad Nazir, MD, Avera Medical Group infectious disease specialist. “We live where the virus can lead to severe complications, including encephalitis and paralysis. We must be on our guard.”

Common-sense steps can help reduce risk as well, such as making sure windows have screens and doors are kept closed. Drain or treat areas of standing water to reduce overall mosquito populations. Picaridin-based varieties of repellent also help.

“Pre-treated clothing serves as a great barrier to insects, and it comes in a wide range of types, including kids’ clothing,” Van Kalsbeek said. “If you’re using repellents, the recommendation is to use ones that have DEET concentrations between 10-30%.”

DEET-based repellents are not recommended for use with children who are 2 or younger. Eucalyptus or lemon essential oils can help shield young kids.

Most people who get West Nile experience mild symptoms such as headache, fever or body aches, and most recover completely, but weakness and fatigue can last for weeks or months. About one in 150 people who contract it will develop severe illness symptoms.

“Our primary goal is to protect at-risk groups: People age 50 and older, as well as those with immune-deficient conditions, diabetes or cancer,” said Nazir. “There is no vaccine or specific treatment for West Nile virus. All treatment is supportive.”

Ticks carrying Lyme disease are found in Midwestern woody areas and tall-grass stands. Van Kalsbeek said if you find one, do not burn it from your skin or apply gasoline.

“Using tweezers, grasp the tick near its head, then gently pull it straight out until it lets go and you can remove it,” Van Kalsbeek said. “Don’t squeeze its ‘body’ as it could force fluid into your body. You should also make a ‘tick check’ part of your routine whenever you visit areas with woods or tall grass.”

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