Your Health: Be aware of pests carrying diseases in summer | CraigDailyPress.com

Your Health: Be aware of pests carrying diseases in summer

Pests and parasites prominent in summertime such as mosquitoes can carry diseases like West Nile virus. Ticks are also prevalent in Colorado during the season and can cause a number of diseases in hosts.

As you begin plans to travel during the summer, keep in mind the kinds of pests and parasites that can have a hazardous effect on your health.

The warmer months can mean an abundance of insects and arachnids in your home and outside, and while a bite from any of these tiny creatures would be unpleasant, some may be more dangerous than others, specifically mosquitoes and ticks.

The mosquito-borne disease West Nile virus remains a threat in Colorado, with 322 total cases reported in 2013, the second highest in the nation. While only 90 of these cases were considered neuroinvasive, seven deaths also were related to the virus.

Since West Nile first was reported in the United States in 1999, Moffat County largely has been unaffected, with few cases overall, the first of which was not discovered until 2003. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows the majority of cases impacted the Front Range, including Larimer, Boulder, Broomfield, Weld, Adams, Arapahoe and Denver counties.

Part of this is because of greater population in these areas, said Jan Stapleton, deputy director of communications for CDPHE.

Stapleton also emphasized that the smaller occurrence of West Nile in Northwest Colorado does not mean the region is any more protected from the disease, for humans or animals.

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"West Nile has not gone away. It's still a risk for everyone throughout Colorado," she said.

Most cases last year involved uncomplicated fever, but instances of meningitis and encephalitis also were traced to West Nile. The disease still is considered rare, but if bitten by a mosquito, a person experiencing high fever, severe headache and a stiff neck should seek advice from a health care professional.

Precautions known as "the four D's" include:

• Drain standing water around the house weekly since that’s where mosquitoes lay eggs. Be sure to empty old tires, cans, flowerpots, rain gutters, rain barrels and toys where puddles can occur.

• Dusk and dawn are when mosquitoes that carry the virus are most active, so limit outdoor activities or take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

• DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is an effective ingredient to look for in insect repellents. Always follow label instructions carefully.

• Dress in long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk or in areas where mosquitoes are active.

More information can be found at mosquito safety website http://www.fightthebitecolorado.com.

Suggestions such as repellents with DEET and protective clothing also are effective when it comes to ticks, about 30 species of which can be found in Colorado.

The most common types in the region to affect humans are the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick, with Colorado tick fever the most frequent disease transmitted.

Less common are ailments such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever — with many of the few cases statewide associated with Northwest Colorado — and tick paralysis, in which the tick remains attached to its host for too long, causing difficulty walking followed by numbness of the limbs and difficulty breathing. Lyme disease, the condition most linked with ticks, has yet to have a case contracted within Colorado, mostly happening in the eastern United States.

Ticks can be removed easily if caught before they begin feeding, with the simple use of blunt tweezers grasping as close to the skin as possible.

Colorado State University Extension notes that the blood-sucking parasites often are encountered in "brushy areas along the edges of fields and woodlands or commonly traveled paths through grassy areas and shrublands," meaning frequent tick checks for campers are advisable.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.