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We Are Not Out of the Woods Yet: Diseases You Can Get From Ticks and Mosquitoes

In addition to HOT weather and HIGH humidity, Minnesotans get other summertime treats: ticks and mosquitoes. They're not just annoying pests; they happily share diseases with us. Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne disease, here, with more than 1,000 cases last year., according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Lyme Disease comes from a bacteria; the tick must be attached 24 hours or longer to transmit the bacteria. A large bulls-eye rash appears within three to 30 days (in 80% of victims -(the rest get no rash).

By Kristine Matson, M.D, Pediatric and Young Adult Health Care
Northfield, MN

In addition to HOT weather and HIGH humidity, Minnesotans get other summertime treats: ticks and mosquitoes. They're not just annoying pests; they happily share diseases with us.

Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne disease, here, with more than 1,000 cases last year., according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Lyme Disease comes from a bacteria; the tick must be attached 24 hours or longer to transmit the bacteria. A large bulls-eye rash appears within three to 30 days (in 80% of victims -(the rest get no rash). It also causes fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue. Lyme Disease can progress to multiple rashes, facial paralysis, numbness of extremities, irregular heartbeat, and profound fatigue and weakness. In other words, it's no summer picnic.

Lyme DiseaseIt can be hard to diagnose, because many people don't recall being bitten, initial symptoms are non-specificgeneral, and lab tests are imprecise. Antibiotics can be very effective if started early.

A second tick-borne illness, Human Anaplasmosis (formerly called Ehrlichiosis), was reported in 139 cases statewide last year. and, lLike Lyme Disease, it's on the rise. Most cases occur in June and- July, but it can be contracted from April through September. Like Lyme Disease, Human Anaplasmosis comes from deer ticks; some victims have been infected with both in the same tick bite. Human Anaplasmosis These symptoms are also nonspecific: fever, headache, sore muscles and joints, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes a rash. Symptoms are usually limited, but some fatal cases have been reported. Treatment with antibiotics is usually effective.

Ready for the third? Babesiosis: Nine cases were reported in 2004 and it, too, is also increasing. About 20% of people with Babesiosis also have Lyme Disease. Most cases are contracted in July and August. Like Malaria, tThis disease is caused by protozoa, not bacteria. Watch for headache, high fever, sore muscles and joints, and fatigue. It can be very mild or very severe, but usually resolves without treatment; severe cases get antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs.

Our last trouble from ticks is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever-rare in Minnesota., but iIt's a very severe illness and usually strikes children under 15. Characterized by a dramatic rash, RMSF can result in long term disability and death. You're not unlikely to see RMSF here, but if you develop a suspicious rash on wrists, hands, and feet, see your doctor.

And now: mosquitoes. The diseases they transmit can cause viral encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the covering of the brain). Symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting, and can progress to confusion, seizures, coma and death. Because these are viral illnesses, antibiotic treatment is not effective-so treatment is mainly supportive: fluids, hand-holding, TLC.

West Nile is the most common mosquito-borne disease in Minnesota, affecting humans, horses, and birds. There have been more than 200 cases statewide since 2002, including three cases in Rice County, and a handful of deaths statewide. Most victims have mild symptoms, but West Nile is occasionally fatal, especially among the elderly.

LaCrosse Encephalitis was named for a Minnesota child who died of this disease in a LaCrosse, Wisconsin. hospital. The MN Ddepartment of Health reports several cases of LaCrosse Encephalitis each year; mostly occur in the late summer in counties along the Mississippi River. Western and Eastern Equine Encephalitis and St. Louis Encephalitis are much less common but have occurred in Minnesota in regional outbreaks in the past.

So how do we prevent these diseases? No vaccines are available for humans, so we have to prevent tick and mosquito bites. Ticks live in wooded, brushy, and grassy areas. ; wWear long sleeves with tight cuffs and long pants tucked in to socks or boots. to keep ticks out. Wear light colors so you can see the ticks. on your clothing. Pets carry ticks on their fur; a daily "tick check" for all family members helps get ticks off within 24 hours, reducing the risks of Lyme Disease.

If a tick becomes attached to your skin, remove it slowly with a tweezers and wear gloves to avoid contact with infectious material. Wash the bite site and hands thoroughly. If you can, save the tick in a plastic bag in your freezer in case illness develops and your doctor needs to identify the tick. Permethrin is an insect repellant that kills ticks on contact. It can be sprayed on clothing and outdoor equipment but should not be applied directly to the skin. Insect repellent containing DEET also discourages ticks.

It's harder to prevent mosquito bites. Eliminate mosquito breeding grounds by removing standing water; use window screens at home and netting over strollers and camp sites. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. DEET is an effective insect repellant; use products with less than 30% DEET for children. and adults and dDo not use DEET on children less than two months old. Recent studies show that products made from essential oils such as citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, and soybeans have short-term repellant effect but are less effective than DEET.

Tempted to move away? Watch out! In other parts of the world, ticks and mosquitoes carry Colorado Tick Fever, Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, Venezuela Equine Encephalitis and Japanese Encephalitis, not to mention Malaria.

Maybe Minnesota bugs aren't so bad after all.



Categories: Children's Health, Health & Wellness, Women's Health,


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