Beware the Bite: Protect Yourself and Your Pets From Mosquitoes and Ticks

Beware the Bite: Protect Yourself 
and Your Pets From Mosquitoes and 

LANSING - For many, summer arriving usually brings to mind cooking out, beaches, and bonfires.

But the Michigan Department of Community Health warns that as people continue to spend time outside, precautions should be taken against mosquitoes and the diseases they may carry, including West Nile Virus, which could cause life-altering ailments.

According to Emerging Disease Issues on the State of Michigan's official website, the 36 West Nile Virus cases reported in 2013 was down significantly from the 202 reported in 2012. Michigan Department of Community Health Public Information Officer Angela Minicuci said that the difference was due to the fact that 2012 was an unusually dry summer.

"The breed of mosquito that carries West Nile Virus tends to thrive in dry climates because there is more standing, stagnant water," Minicuci said.

But despite the sharp decrease in cases, along with the harsh winter, she says that there is no way to accurately predict how many cases there will be this year.

"We can't predict the weather, therefore we can't predict how many cases of West Nile there will be," Minicuci said. "Just because we had the harsh winter doesn't mean that the mosquitoes are gone."

According to WebMD, approximately 80 percent of people who have West Nile Virus have no symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, headaches and fatigue. But the disease can also cause more serious conditions, such as swelling of the brain, seizures, and permanent memory loss. In rare cases, West Nile Virus can be fatal.

Aside from using mosquito repellent, the Mayo Clinic recommends unclogging roof gutters, emptying unused swimming pools, and changing water in bird baths daily.

Tick bites also carry potential health risks for humans, most notably Lyme Disease. According to WedMD, Lyme Disease, although treatable with antibiotics if caught early enough, can affect the nervous system, as well as cause arthritis (most commonly in the knees) and heart problems if it goes untreated. Early symptoms are similar to the flu, so it can be difficult to tell if you are affected by Lyme Disease. Doctors can diagnose the disease with a simple blood test.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding wooded areas or areas with tall grass. They also recommend using repellents that contain DEET (much like with mosquitoes), as well as bathing immediately upon going indoors. WebMD also recommends checking to see if you need a tetanus shot if you are bitten.

Dogs can also be affected by ticks. The CDC recommends checking your dog for ticks daily, and, if one is found, removing it immediately. They also suggest asking your veterinarian to check for ticks and tick bites at each visit.

The CDC also says that symptoms of tick-borne disease may not appear until 7-21 days after the tick bite. Changes in behavior or appetite could be a sign that your dog is infected.

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