Vector Borne Illness

Summer is on its way, which means many of us will be headed out to the mountains, the river and our own backyards. The warm weather brings out other things too; ticks and mosquitoes are most active in Montana during late spring, summer and early fall.

If you spend any time outdoors, the bite of an infected tick or mosquito may expose you to disease. West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are examples of these. Though they are small and may be hard to see, ticks and mosquitoes can be avoided, effectively preventing bites.

Dress Properly

Ticks can be easily spotted on light-colored clothing, and long pants and long sleeves will keep both ticks and mosquitoes from attaching to your arms and legs. Wearing socks and sturdy shoes can help keep insects from coming in contact with your feet and ankles.

Use Insect Repellent

Repellents containing 20-50% DEET can effectively combat ticks and mosquitoes. Follow the product’s instructions and reapply repellent as needed. Insecticides containing permethrin can also be used, but should be applied only to clothing, not on skin. Only one application of a permethrin solution is needed.

Be Aware of Your Environment

Making some changes to your surroundings can help discourage tick and mosquito activity around your home. Removing leaf litter, mowing or cutting back tall grass and brush and eliminating standing water can all help to cut down on tick and mosquito populations.

Know What to Look For

Diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes are called vector-borne diseases. Most vector-borne diseases have very similar symptoms:

  • Body/muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Rash
  • Stiff neck
  • Paralysis

If you develop symptoms of a vector-borne disease, seek medical attention, and tell your healthcare provider if you have been working or recreating outdoors or have any tick or mosquito bites.

Check for and Remove Ticks

Check your skin and clothes for ticks once you return from outdoors. Wash and dry your clothing using the hottest settings possible to kill any ticks that may be present.

If a tick has attached itself to you, remove it promptly using fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick firmly, as close to your skin as possible. Pull the tick’s body away from your skin with a steady motion, and clean the area thoroughly with soap and water.

Pets can often carry ticks into your home or yard. Be sure to check your pets thoroughly for ticks. See your veterinarian if you suspect your pet may have ticks.

For more information on vector-borne diseases and how to prevent them, download our printable fact sheets: West Nile Virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, any others we have. You can also call a Public Health Nurse at 454-6950.