CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY – As summer enters its late stages, bugs seem to be popping up everywhere. Mosquitoes and ticks, however, are especially prevalent and pose a risk to your health.
Johanna Damcott, a Public Health Sanitarian with the Chautauqua County Health Department, spoke with WNY News Now and explained how to keep yourself safe while still enjoying the nice weather outdoors.
Says Damcott, mosquito season is “a little bit more intense this year than it has been in other years. It’s been a very wet summer and that just helps the population kind of explode.”
Damcott says the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases are West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, better known as ‘Triple E.’ She also says that there have been no reported cases of either of those this year in Chautauqua County.
If you think you may have contracted an illness from a mosquito bite, Damcott recommends speaking with your primary care physician. However, working to avoid mosquito bites before they happen is the best route to safety.
“Mosquitos are very active in the early morning hours and the evening hours,” commented Damcott. “If you’re planning to be outside during that time, wear a long-sleeve shirt, wear long pants, wear some sort of mosquito-repellant, bug-repellant. If you have something that has 20 percent deet in it, it’s going to be the most effective.”
Another way to protect yourself from the pests is to, “try to make sure that you don’t have areas on your property that hold a lot of water,” noted Damcott. “It doesn’t take very long, or a lot of water, for the next population of mosquitoes to erupt.” That’s because mosquitoes lay their eggs in the water and they develop largely in there as well.
The specialist’s final message regarding mosquitoes was simple: “Just be sure to protect yourself if you’re out and about. [There are] very, very simple steps you can take to make sure you’re not getting eaten alive out here.”
Ticks, especially those in Chautauqua County, are notably more dangerous than mosquitoes. According to data collected in 2020, 62 percent of the ticks tested had the bacteria that can lead to Lyme Disease in humans.
“If that tick bites you, that’s not an automatic transmission,” explained Damcott. “However, if that tick is on you for more than 24 hours, the chances of transmission go up significantly.”
The best way to identify that a tick is on your body, Damcott says, is via ‘tick checks.’
“When you get back, we want you to shower within two hours of being outside and check areas of your body that have creases… behind your ears, armpits, the groin area… behind your knees, between your toes,” said Damcott. “The ticks that are actually active this time of year are only the size of a poppyseed… it’s very, very hard to see them, so look thoroughly.”
If you do find a tick burrowed into your skin, she says to consult your doctor immediately and monitor yourself for flu-like symptoms.
Damcott also explained that headaches and a “bullseye reaction” around the tick’s infiltration site may occur if you’ve contracted Lyme Disease.
Ultimately, anywhere where deer go, ticks will be found.
“Even in the grass, if you’re playing in the short grass in the backyard, I’ve had a lot of reports this year of kids coming in with ticks on them just from playing in the backyard,” stated Damcott.
The best way to prevent ticks from trying to enter your skin when outdoors is to use a product with “20 percent deet, [it’s] very, very important. You’re going to set a fashion example here as well. We want you to wear light-colored clothes, long-sleeves, long pants, and we want you to tuck your pants in your socks,” said Damcott. “I know it sounds ridiculous, but if you wear those light-colored layers, the ticks, you’re going to be able to see them pretty quickly before they actually have a chance to get on you.”
Applying deet-based products to your clothes is also useful, as it can cause skin irritation for some people.
If you do get a tick on you, there is a very specific way to safely remove it.
“You need a pair of pointed tweezers. Don’t get a flathead tweezer; what you can do is you can squish the body of the tick and it will regurgitate what’s in its stomach into you,” explained Damcott. “Get ahold of that tick right at the mouthpieces and pull gently.” Then you should check to see if all of the pieces came out of your skin cleanly.
Ultimately, if you have questions, contact a professional, such as your doctor or a health department representative who can help guide you.