NCDHHS encourages North Carolinians to “Fight the Bite” with insect repellant and other prevention tools to avoid tick- and mosquito-borne disease

 HEALTH; ENVIRONMENT; COMMUNITY NEWS

Compiled by Michelle Cassell
Managing Editor 

As warmer weather approaches, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services urges North Carolinians to “Fight the Bite” by reducing their risk of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases. In 2023, almost 900 cases of tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses were reported across the state.

April is Tick and Mosquito Awareness Month, and NCDHHS is announcing the return of the Fight the Bite campaign to increase awareness about the dangers of vector-borne diseases and educate residents about measures they can take to protect themselves. Students K-12 have been invited to submit an educational poster for the annual campaign contest.

“Recent tick and mosquito surveillance show both are present in North Carolina and their bites have the potential to cause serious disease,” said Alexis M. Barbarin, Ph.D., State Public Health Entomologist. “We encourage all North Carolinians to explore the outdoors safely by taking protective measures like using DEET or other EPA-approved repellants.”

Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases can cause fever, headache, rashes, flu-like illness and other symptoms that can be severe. Lyme disease accounted for roughly 37% of all tick-borne diseases reported last year. While not reportable conditions, Southern Tick Associate Rash Illness and Alpha-gal syndrome have also been identified in North Carolina. Alpha-gal syndrome is an allergic reaction to red (mammalian) meat that has been linked to the bite of certain ticks. Most diagnoses of tick-borne diseases are reported between June and September.

The Local Reporter gave a full report on Alpha-gal syndrome when it was first found in North Carolina last year. Read about it here.

Ticks live in wooded, grassy and brushy areas, and frequenting these areas can put you in contact with ticks and increase your potential exposure to vector-borne diseases. To reduce exposure to ticks:

Use repellent that contains DEET (or other EPA approved replicants) on exposed skin and wear clothing treated with a pesticide called permethrin. Use caution when applying to children.
Check yourself and your children for ticks if you have been in a tick habitat and remove them promptly.

Reduce tick habitats with selective landscaping techniques.
The mosquito-borne diseases most often acquired in North Carolina are West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis and La Crosse encephalitis. Nationally, North Carolina was second to only Ohio in reported cases of infections from La Crosse virus between 2003 and 2022.

Most mosquito-borne diseases reported in North Carolina are acquired while traveling outside the continental United States, including cases of malaria, dengue, chikungunya and Zika.

To reduce exposure to mosquitoes:

Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when outside. Use caution when applying to children.

Consider treating clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks and tents) with 0.5% permethrin.

Install or repair screens on windows and doors and use air conditioning if possible.
“Tip and Toss” — reduce mosquito breeding by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths at least once a week.

If you plan to travel to an area where exotic mosquito-borne diseases occur, talk with your primary care provider or local health department
.
Always check your destination to identify appropriate prevention methods. Travel-associated health risk information is available at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel

The annual Fight the Bite Campaign is a poster artwork contest between NCDHHS, local health departments, and K-12 schools that uses illustrations to increase awareness of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases in North Carolina. Entries are due by Monday, April 8; information regarding contest submission and deadlines can be found on the NCDHHS website. Winners of this statewide awareness poster contest will be announced at the end of April.

For more information on vector-borne diseases in North Carolina, please visit the NCDHHS Vector-Borne Diseases webpage.


Michelle Cassell is a seasoned reporter who has covered everything from crime to hurricanes and local politics to human interest over the course of 35 years. As managing editor, she hopes to encourage writers of a wide range of backgrounds and interests in TLR’s coverage of Southern Orange County news. 
This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocalReporter.press

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