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 symptomsand 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 notdevelop rashes but most do;
- Rashes can occur within hours or up to 30 days after the tick bite.
To prevent tick-borne diseases, useinsect repellent, avoid getting off trails and roads, perform tick checks frequently throughout your outdoor activity, and make a final tick check after your activity. 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 causefever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash, and in rare cases even death.
Although theZika virus is currently not established in our local area, two major concernsare contracting the illness while traveling abroad, and the risk to the unborn babies of pregnant women. The virus can causemicrocephaly and other brain defects, and has been linked to miscarriage, stillbirth, and other birth defects. In addition to mosquito bites, an infected partner can transmit the Zika virus to unborn babies through sexual fluids.Although rare, 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 parasitesfound locally that are of concern this time of year areGiardia 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.
For more information, call ourEnvironmental Health Servicesat 209-8110 orthe Epidemiology section at (423) 209-8190.