Our Opinion: Fend off diseases borne by ticks, mosquitoes

The caution didn’t come too soon.

Two possible cases of a tick-borne illness were reported Tuesday, one day after health officials in Missouri warned tick and mosquito problems have been ignited by the early arrival of warm temperatures.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has confirmed it is investigating two possible case of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in St. Louis County.

The illness may cause fever, headache, abdominal and muscle pain, and vomiting. It can be fatal in rare cases.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever and its relative, ehrlichiosis — carried primarily by the lone star tick — peaked in Missouri in 2008.

A third tick-borne illness, lyme disease, is relative rare in our state.

Researchers have identified honeysuckle as a favored locale for ticks, likely because honeysuckle also serves as a bedding habitat for deer. Biologists say the chances of contracting a tick-borne disease are five to eight times greater when walking through honeysuckle.

In addition to tick problems, health officials also are sounding an early alarm about mosquito activity. A disease borne by mosquitoes, West Nile virus, has declined in Missouri during the past few years.

The severity of this year’s tick and mosquito seasons is difficult to predict.

In addition to the early onset of warmer temperatures, state conservation officials are concerned about a disease ravaging the population of bats, which are natural predators of mosquitoes.

People can minimize their chances of a tick-borne disease by: avoiding wooded areas; applying a repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET; and showering and examining themselves after coming indoors.

With regard to mosquitoes: avoid going out from dusk to dawn; wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks; use a repellent with DEET; and eliminate standing water, which serves as a breeding area for mosquitoes.

Prevention is being emphasized because these disease-bearing pest may be more abundant and more annoying this year.

Although you may get sick of ticks and mosquitoes, don’t get sickened by them.

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