Nelson shares the following tips to pass on to patients and families about tick prevention.
• Wear repellents registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Parents should apply repellent to children, avoiding the hands, eyes, and mouth. People who spend a lot of time outdoors should consider treating clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin.
• Emphasize the importance of tick checks. People should check themselves and their children for ticks after spending time outdoors. Places that ticks frequently hide are in the ears, on the back of the neck, hairline, and in the groin area.
• In conjunction with the tick check, it’s helpful to remove clothing where ticks might be hiding, and take a shower to wash off any unseen ticks. Research has shown that showering within 2 hours of coming indoors can protect against Lyme disease.
• Finally, tell patients who spend time in tick habitats or find an attached tick to watch for fever and rash, and to see their physician if they have any symptoms or concerns.
Monitoring and disease control
Increasing disease and prevalence is exacerbated by the fact that our global society makes it easier than ever to spread, according to the CDC. Infected travelers and worldwide commerce bring vectors from other parts of the world to the United States, says the agency.
Some of the top mosquito-borne diseases include: California serogroup viruses, Chikungunya virus, Dengue viruses, Eastern equine encephalitis virus, malaria Plasmodium, Saint Louis encephalitis virus, West Nile virus, yellow fever virus, and Zika virus. Tick-borne diseases include anaplasmosis/ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, Lyme disease, Powassan virus, spotted fever group rickettsioses, and tularemia.
“Recent outbreaks of Zika, chikungunya, and West Nile viruses and the steady increase in Lyme disease cases point to the need for state and local agencies to have comprehensive vector-borne disease prevention and control programs,” the CDC says. “The United States needs better tools and more staff with greater expertise at local and state levels to reduce the growing threat of these diseases.”
Vectors are more prevalent in some areas of the country, with the top 20% of mosquito-borne diseases found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. The top 20% of tick-borne disease cases are found in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Local and state health departments, as well as local vector control organizations, aren’t prepared to handle the increased burden, says the CDC, with 80% of vector control organizations needing improvement in 1 or more of 5 competencies, such as testing for pesticide resistance. Other core competencies include local mosquito and tick monitoring; using data to drive local decisions about vector control; having an action plan to control vectors at every life stage; and using a variety of methods for vector control.
The federal government is working to increase funding for vector surveillance programs; is convening a Tick-Borne Disease Working Group to improve coordination of tick-borne disease efforts; and has created 5 regional centers to address emerging diseases from mosquitoes and ticks. It’s also important that state and local agencies build and sustain public health programs to test and track vectors, and educate the public about prevention and control methods, says the CDC.