SAN LUIS VALLEY— The first 2017 human case of mosquito-borne West Nile Virus was confirmed in Colorado last week, and ticks are also getting some attention in parts of the San Luis Valley as well this year.
Summer is the season when people are most likely to be exposed to animal-borne disease, including diseases spread by insects and other bugs.
Wood ticks and dog ticks are the most commonly found ticks in Colorado. “Regardless of the type of tick, it is wise to take precautions against ticks because ticks in general can carry disease,” says Ginger Stringer, San Luis Valley regional epidemiologist. Some diseases known to be carried by ticks in Colorado include tick-borne relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, and tularemia.
Prevent tick bites by avoiding ticks on people, on pets, and in the yard. When hiking, walk in the center of trails. Use repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or IR3535 on exposed skin, following product instructions. Treat clothing and gear with a product containing permethrin. As soon as possible after spending time in wooded areas, shower or bathe and look for ticks using a mirror to view all parts of your body. Check children’s hair and other hard-to-see areas like in and around the ears, inside the belly button, and behind the knees. Check clothing and gear as well.
If you find a tick attached to the skin, remove it as quickly as possible. Use tweezers to pull the tick straight out with steady, even pressure to avoid causing any part of the tick to break off and remain in the skin. After removing the tick, clean the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Flush it down the toilet or dispose of it in a sealed bag. If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Check your pets daily and remove ticks right away. Watch your dog for changes in behavior or appetite following a suspected tick bite, and call your veterinarian if you have concerns.
Repellent containing DEET can also help prevent mosquito bites. Other precautions against mosquitos include avoiding standing water on your property and keeping screens on doors and windows in good repair. Wear long sleeves and pants if you must be outside at dawn and dusk. Mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus, which may cause flu-like symptoms 3-14 days following exposure. A small percentage of people who contract West Nile Virus develop more serious symptoms which may last several weeks to years, causing permanent effects or even death.
“Prevention is always best,” says Stringer. “Enjoy your time outdoors and take care to keep yourself and your family safe while doing it.”
For help finding the repellent that is right for your family, go to https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you.