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. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department offers these precautions so residents can protect themselves, their families, neighbors, and pets.
“We encourage our residents to get outside and be active this year,” says Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department Director of Environmental Health Services Bonnie Deakins, “But we also don’t want the fun to end with a disease that could have been prevented.”
Several varieties of ticks in our local area 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 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.More in-depth descriptions and pictures can be found at cdc.gov/ticks.
Overall, mosquito-borne illnesses in Tennessee are rare. The greatest risk statewide is for West Nile virus, which can cause fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash, and in rare cases even death.
Although the Zika virus is currently not established in our local area, two major concerns are contracting the illness while traveling to an affected region of the world, and the risk to the unborn babies of pregnant women. The virus is known to cause birth defects such as microcephaly, 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 in anyone.
To prevent mosquito bites, use insect repellent, wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, and eliminate standing water on your property.
While not a vector-borne disease, two intestinal parasites found locally that are of concern this time of year are Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Giardia may produce vomiting, chills, headache, or fever, while “Crypto” can cause watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and headaches. Both can be treated with anti-parasitic medications. They can be prevented by filtering or boiling untreated water and avoid getting untreated water in your mouth and nose while swimming.