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Health Officials Offer Tips to Prevent Mosquito and Tickborne Diseases

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- A greater risk of exposure to diseases caused by ticks and mosquitoes comes with warmer weather and being outside.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) each year, Oklahoma consistently ranks among those states with the highest number of reported cases of tickborne illnesses, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia.

Fifteen cases of tickborne illness have been reported in the state so far this year, the OSDH said.

The OSDH advises persons who participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, bicycle trail riding, yard work, gardening, etc., to follow tick bite prevention precautions including the following:

• Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to see.

• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks to deprive ticks of attachment sites.

• Wear closed-toe shoes, not sandals.

• Hikers and bikers should stay in the center of trails to avoid grass and brush.

• Check for ticks at least once per day, particularly along waistbands, in the armpits and groin area.

• Use a tick repellent with DEET on skin and clothing according to directions.

• Use a tick repellent with permethrin on clothing only and according to directions.

Some of the symptoms of tickborne diseases include fever, often severe headache, muscle aches, vomiting and abdominal pain. Other symptoms may include skin rash and swelling of the lymph nodes in the area of the tick bite. Tickborne diseases can be treated successfully with early diagnosis and appropriate antibiotics, according to the OSDH.

Some of the symptoms of West Nile virus (WNV) include sudden onset of fever, headaches, dizziness, and muscle weakness. Long-lasting complications can include difficulty concentrating, migraine headaches, extreme muscle weakness and tremors, and paralysis of a limb. Some of the neurological effects of WNV may be permanent, the OSDH reported.

Some precautions to take against mosquito bites include:

• Use insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors and according to product instructions, particularly if you are outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are more likely to bite.

• Repair or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

• Prevent items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots, and tires from holding standing water so mosquitoes don't have a place to breed.

• Empty your pet's outdoor water bowl and refill daily.

• Regularly clean leaves and debris from rain gutters to ensure they are not clogged.

If you experience symptoms consistent with a tickborne illness or WNV within 14 days after a tick bite, mosquito bite, or participating in outdoor activities, contact your physician immediately.

For information about tickborne illnesses and WNV, visit the OSDH Web site "Disease Information."

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