Public health official urges precaution against insect-borne disease.

Rome, GA: The combination of increasingly warmer weather, people getting outside to enjoy it, and rising insect populations brings potential for insect-borne diseases, also called vector-borne diseases 1. The Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District offers these precautions, so residents can protect themselves, their families, neighbors, and pets.

“We encourage our residents to get outside and be active,” says Dr. Unini Odama, health director for the Northwest Health District, “but we don’t want the fun to end with a disease that could have been prevented. With warm weather and summer travel rapidly approaching, we are vulnerable to diseases from both ticks and mosquitos. Protecting ourselves from these threats is important.”

Tick-borne Diseases

Several varieties of ticks in Northwest Georgia carry bacteria that can be transmitted through a tick bite. It is important to recognize these general symptoms and seek medical attention as soon as possible:

• Fever and chills;
• Aches, pains, and fatigue, sometimes joint pain;
• Rash, sometimes in unusual shapes like a “bull’s eye,” or spots that may appear elsewhere on the body, or an ulcer at the bite site;
• Some people will not develop rashes, but most do;
• Rashes can occur within hours or up to 30 days after the tick bite.

Prevent tick-borne diseases 1 by using insect repellent, avoid getting off trails and roads, and checking your entire body for ticks as soon as possible after being outdoors. Check children, gear, and pets thoroughly. If you should find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic – the key is to remove the tick as soon as possible. Here’s what you need to know about tick removal 1.

More in-depth descriptions, pictures, and information about which types of ticks live in Northwest Georgia can be found at cdc.gov/ticks 1.

Mosquito-borne Diseases

Overall, mosquito-borne illnesses in Georgia are rare, but they do occur. The greatest risk statewide is for West Nile virus 1, which can cause fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash, and in rare cases even death.

Although the Zika virus 2 is currently not established in our local area, two major concerns are contracting the illness while traveling to an affected region 1 of the world, and the risk to the unborn babies of pregnant women. The virus is known to cause birth defects such as microcephaly 1, and also brain damage, seizures, or problems with vision and hearing.

Zika virus is also transmitted through sexual fluids for up to 8 weeks by infected women and up to 6 months by infected men. Condoms should be worn during these time frames, even within monogamous relationships. The virus can also cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome 1 in anyone.

To prevent mosquito bites 1, use insect repellent, wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, and eliminate standing water on your property – Tip ‘n Toss 2.

Parasites

While not a vector-borne disease, three intestinal parasites 1 found locally that are of concern this time of year are Giardia 1, Cryptosporidium 1, and Cyclosporiasis 1.
Giardia may produce vomiting, chills, headache, or fever, while “Crypto” can cause watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and headaches. Watery diarrhea is the most common symptom of Cyclosporiasis. All can be prevented by filtering or boiling untreated water and avoid getting untreated water in your mouth and nose while swimming.

If you have symptoms of any of these vector-borne or parasitic diseases, check with your healthcare provider.

For more information, contact the Environmental Health office at your local health department. Find contact information here: https://nwgapublichealth.org/counties

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov, various pages accessed May 2018.
2 Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District, https://nwgapublichealth.org, various pages accessed May 2018.

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About the Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District: The Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District works to track and prevent the spread of disease; promote health, safety, and wellbeing through education and communication; and prepare for, respond to, and ensure our communities are ready to handle public health emergencies, thereby improving the quality of life for individuals and families in ten northwest Georgia counties: Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding, Polk and Walker. Our county health departments provide a variety of medical services; monitor area environmental safety, including restaurant inspections; and help ensure their communities are prepared for disasters. Find us on the web at www.nwgapublichealth.org. Follow us on Facebook to receive news, emergency messages, and health information at www.facebook.com/NorthwestHealthDistrict

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