Officials warn of tick-borne illnesses

By Keith Strange

April 14, 2014

DOBSON — With the weather warming, county health officials are warning residents to be on the lookout for ticks and mosquitoes to help prevent the spread of diseases they can carry.

According to state health officials, tick and mosquito-borne illnesses cause sickness in a large number of people in the state, and the governor has even issued a proclamation urging residents to take steps to prevent the spread of illness.

Maggie Simmons, a spokesperson for the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, said some of the illnesses spread by ticks include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Lyme disease and monocytic ehrlichiosis.

“These conditions are diagnosed from all regions of the state, and can be acquired at any time of the year, however, the vast majority occur in the months of June through September,” she said in a written statement issued by the department.

Although Lyme disease is the condition most associated with tick-borne illness in the nation, in North Carolina Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is more prevalent. The state has one of the highest rates of the disease in the country, according to the statement.

“We see cases every year,” said Brandy Poplin, clinical services director of the county health department. “Most commonly we see Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease, and it’s not a huge problem, but we wanted to get information out and make people aware of how they can minimize their chances of being infected.”

Symptoms of the disease include fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting abdominal pain, fatigue and possibly a rash.

“It’s treatable with antibiotics and is usually curable, but they’re certainly unpleasant and generally sends people to the doctor,” Poplin said.

While mosquito-borne diseases are less common than those carried by ticks, the state Division of Public Health receives reports of encephalitis due to infection with LaCrosse and West Nile virii every year, according to Simmons.

In an effort to prevent the spread of tick and mosquito-borne diseases, county officials recommend a common-sense approach.

In general, they encourage residents to avoid areas where ticks are commonly found including wooded, grassy or brushy areas. Anyone who can’t avoid these habitats should wear a repellent.

Persons who find a tick attached to their body should carefully remove it by grasping it with fine-tipped tweezers as close as possible to their skin and apply a steady, gentle pressure until the tick releases.

To avoid exposure to mosquitoes, health officials recommend using a repellent, although they also note it is important to mosquito-proof homes by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors and using air conditioning.

Mosquito breeding can be mitigated by eliminating any standing water around homes.

More information about preventing exposure can be found at County officials can be reached at 336-401-8410.

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.