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Wolf administration warns of West Nile vIrus, ticks during fall outdoors season

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Mosquito bites

Americans are currently three times more likely than an earlier time to suffer infections from disease-carrying insects, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scientists believe rising global temperatures are to blame for the increase in mosquito-related illnesses like dengue fever, West Nile virus, and the Zika virus. The Environmental Protection Agency currently endorses products containing DEET, Picaridin, and lemon-eucalyptus oil to help keep mosquitoes away.

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a cold beer in the outdoors, but it is also the worst time of year for mosquitoes.

The Wolf administration Monday warned residents to protect themselves against mosquito and tick-borne illnesses as fall weather lures people outdoors.

The administration said that so far this year, there have been 14 human West Nile Virus cases, including two deaths — one in Franklin County and another in Philadelphia County.

“Autumn is a wonderful season to spend time outdoors and participate in many activities, such as hiking and observing the fall foliage, but we want to make sure people protect themselves when they are outside,” acting Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said. “Both ticks and mosquitoes carry a number of serious diseases. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and protect yourself from these diseases.”

State officials encourage residents to cover their exposed skin, wear light-colored clothing to better detect insects, tuck their pants into their socks in possible tick areas and used insect repellent approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

To reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses, residents should target standing and stagnant water sources, such as those in urban catch basins, clogged gutters, discarded tires, poorly maintained swimming pools, flowerpots and other containers that hold water.

The administration said mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus are most active at dawn and dusk.

The Department of Environmental Protection's Vector Management Program will continue mosquito surveillance until the first frost of fall. Officials said mosquito numbers will diminish with cooler temperatures, and a frost will end mosquito activity season.

Tick surveillance will continue throughout the fall and winter on warm days above 40 degrees. Ticks typically thrive in tall grass, brush and wooded areas, but deer ticks can live in any habitat and have been found in every county in the state.

Those who have been outdoors should check for ticks, shower and put clothing and gear in the dryer on high to kill any ticks. Areas where residents should check for ticks are under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs and around the waist.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include a bullseye rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. Those with symptoms should talk to a doctor as soon as possible.

​Email Naomi Creason at ncreason@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason.

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