Provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health:
Pennsylvania state officials visited Gifford Pinchot State Park in York County Thursday to remind residents they can take steps to prevent mosquito and tick bites, highlighting the increase of Lyme disease cases in Pennsylvania over the past two years.
According to the 2016 Lyme disease data, more than 2,000 more cases of Lyme disease were reported in 2016 than in 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent data indicates that Pennsylvania leads the nation in Lyme disease cases.
“We know that mosquito and tick-borne illnesses are part of living in Pennsylvania,” Acting Health Secretary and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine said. “In 2016 alone, there were more than 11,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease. But there are easy ways to protect yourself and reduce your risk of illness.”
The first line of defense against Lyme disease and any other tick-borne illnesses is avoidance of tick-infested habitats, such as areas dense with shrubbery or tall grass. Proper use of personal protective measures such as repellents and protective clothing, and checking for and removing attached ticks is also an important deterrent to tick-related complications.
“Just as strong sun or severe weather demand outdoors enthusiasts be cognizant of their surroundings, the spread of ticks and related Lyme Disease is requiring the hiker and hunter, angler and birder all to be prepared and proactive when they enter our state parks and forestlands where ticks may be prevalent,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “DCNR is committed to educating both our visitors and employees on the best practices, ensuring safe play and work afield.”
Another outdoor pest that residents should be aware of is mosquitos, which spread diseases such as West Nile or the Zika virus. The CDC recently released updated testing guidelines indicating that Zika virus testing for asymptomatic pregnant women is no longer routinely recommended, but that healthcare providers should defer to the guidance of their state and local health departments. The Department of Health continues to recommend that all pregnant women with potential Zika virus exposure receive laboratory testing. For assistance with testing and other Zika virus-related questions, call 1-877-PA-HEALTH.
Mosquitos can bite at any time of day or night, they are most active at dawn and dusk. When outdoors, people can avoid mosquito bites by properly and consistently using DEET-containing insect repellants and covering exposed skin with lightweight clothing. To keep mosquitoes from entering a home, make sure window and door screens are in place and are in good condition.
“Eliminating standing water around the home, whether from bird baths, kiddie pools, or other items outside that can collect water is good, common-sense way to reduce mosquitos,” said DEP’s McDonnell. “A little prevention goes a long way in protecting yourself and your family from mosquitoes and ticks.”