Washington County Health Department: Beware of tick, mosquito-borne diseases

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - For many, the summer season means fun outdoor activities like hiking, camping and working in the yard, but according to Washington County health officials, the season also gives rise to contraction of tick and mosquito-borne diseases.

Because of this, Washington County Health Department officials are advise those who participate in hiking, camping, bicycle trail riding, yard work, gardening and other outdoor activities to take preventative action against such diseases.

According to Mary Beth Murray, the health department's administrative director, Oklahoma ranks among the states with the highest number of reported cases of tick-borne diseases.

In fact, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health's Acute Disease Service, which maintains statistics on reportable infectious diseases, last year the state had 472 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis and tularemia, including five cases in Washington County.

She said thus far this year while 62 cases of tickborne illness have been reported in Oklahoma, none have been reported in Washington County.

Symptoms of a tickborne disease may include fever, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Other symptoms may include skin rash and swelling of the lymph nodes in the area of the tick bite. Tickborne diseases can be treated successfully with early diagnosis and appropriate antibiotics.

The Washington County Health Department officials recommend that those venturing out into areas suspected to be populated with ticks to:

· Wear light-colored clothing to make spotting ticks easier.
· Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks to deprive ticks of attachment sites.
· Wear closed-toe shoes, not sandals.
· Stay in the center of trails to avoid tick-laden grass and brush.
· Check for ticks at least once per day, particularly along waistbands, in the armpits and groin area.
· Use an insect repellent with DEET on skin and clothing according to directions.
· Use an insect repellent with permethrin on clothing only and according to directions.
· Check pets as dogs and cats can quickly become traveling tick parades and themselves contract tick-borne illnesses.

Those spending time in the outdoors should also beware of the West Nile virus (WNV) — transmitted by a mosquito bite.

While according to health department officials only one case of WNV was reported in the state last year, 329 cases and 20 deaths from the disease have been reported in Oklahoma since 2002.

On Thursday, the Tulsa County Health Department learned of a Tulsa County resident that has been diagnosed with the virus.


The symptoms of the disease include sudden onset of fever, headaches, dizziness and muscle weakness. Long-term, the disease may cause difficulty concentrating, migraine headaches, extreme muscle weakness and tremors and even limb paralysis. Some of the neurological effects of WNV may be permanent.

"If you experience symptoms consistent with a tick-borne disease or WNV within 14 days after a tick bite, mosquito bite, or participating in outdoor activities, contact your health care provider immediately," said Murray.

The health department recommends residents to protect against mosquito bites by:

  • Using insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing before heading outdoors, especially if planning to be outside between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are more likely to bite.
  • Repairing or installing window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of the home.
  • Keeping items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots, tires and pet water bowls from holding long-standing water — thereby depriving mosquitoes of places to breed.
  • Regularly cleaning leaves and debris from rain gutters to ensure they are not clogged.

For more information, visit the Tick-borne and Mosquito-borne Diseases section of the Oklahoma State Department of Health website at http://www.ok.gov/health.

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