Preventing Tick- And Mosquito-Borne Diseases
The diseases caused by ticks are due to parasites or bacteria carried by the ticks. The best way to prevent these diseases is to avoid contact with the carriers of them. Living in or near heavily wooded areas as we do, we are all very familiar with ticks. Due to the warming climate, they are no longer just a seasonal concern.
Ticks can cause a number of diseases. Dog ticks can cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tuleremia. These are rare in Massachusetts and generally occur in the southeastern parts of the state.
Black legged ticks (deer ticks) can spread Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, ehrlichiosis and Powassan virus. These diseases are usually treated with antibiotics. Deer ticks can be active any time temperatures are above freezing. While some people who are bitten by a tick will develop a bull’s-eye rash, many do not. To find out more about these and other tick-borne diseases, symptoms, incubation periods, and treatments go to https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases.
Our Board of Health also has excellent brochures published by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. They include information on identifying ticks, tick diseases, protecting your family and pets, using repellents wisely, reducing ticks around your home, safely removing ticks and more. These brochures are free and available in the front lobby of the Town offices building during spring, summer and fall.
If you are bitten by a tick and wish to have it tested, the UMass Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment provides a list of potential tick identification and testing alternatives here:
The closest of those on the list to us is MedZu Inc., 29 Cottage St., Amherst, MA 01002
You may contact them at their website at https://www.tickreport.com/
Mosquito bites can cause many types of infection. The two most common arboviruses in our area are West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE.) Both are capable of being very dangerous, especially to those older than 50 and those who are immunocompromised. West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne illness in the U.S. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on birds that have WNV, then spread it to other animals and humans. Most WNV infection cause no or mild symptoms. 1 in 150 people who are infected develop severe symptoms affecting the central nervous system. 1 in 10 of those people die. There is no specific treatment for West Nile Virus. Those who survive a serious case often suffer long-lasting neurological changes.
Mosquitoes also cause EEE, which is much rarer than WNV. Most cases in Massachusetts occur in the southeastern part of the state, but recently there has been an increase in other parts of the state. Most people who become infected show either no or mild symptoms. Severe EEE can cause neurologic diseases such as meningitis and encephalitis. While rare, EEE patients who develop serious cases that lead to neurological infection have a high fatality rate. There is no specific treatment for EEE. Severe illness is treated by supportive therapy. About a third of patients who develop encephalitis due to EEE die, and many who survive have some degree of brain damage. For more detailed information about WNV and EEE visit https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/ and www.cdc.gov/EEE. The CDC was also the source for the above facts about WNV and EEE.
Due to the danger of these diseases, it is imperative that people be proactive in reducing their risk of being bitten. Our Board of Health has MassDPH pamphlets on preventing mosquito bites, protecting animals, reducing breeding sites on your property, protecting yourself and your family, and choosing a safe and effective repellent. They are available with the tick pamphlets in the front lobby of the Town Office building in spring, summer and fall.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health conducts surveillance by collecting and testing mosquitoes across the state from June 12 through mid-October. Local boards of health, including ours, receive weekly reports of test results during this time. If positive results are reported from mosquitoes in our area we will issue an alert to the public right away.