Tips to avoid tick and mosquito bites

Now that spring is finally here and people are enjoying being outside, St. Croix County Public Health wants to encourage everyone to take care to avoid tick and mosquito bites.

Ticks and mosquitoes can transmit various illnesses. Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks, and West Nile virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, are two of the most common diseases spread by ticks and mosquitoes in Wisconsin.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows Wisconsin among the top 20% of states reporting cases of tick-borne disease in the country. Wisconsin reported 4,299 cases of Lyme disease in 2017, the highest number reported in our state to date. St. Croix County had 81 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in 2017.

In addition, Wisconsin had 51 human cases of West Nile virus reported in 2017, the highest number in our state since 2012. Certain dead birds can be an indication of West Nile virus in an area. Public health encourages anyone who finds a sick or dead bird to call the dead bird reporting hotline at 800-433-1610.

eople can still enjoy outdoor activities. Taking simple precautions can help a person avoid illnesses spread by mosquitoes and ticks.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

• Use an EPA-approved repellent and apply according to label instructions.

• If in tall grassy or wooded areas, wear light colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants, socks, and shoes, and dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.

• Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear.

• Take steps to control ticks on pets.

• Check for and safely remove ticks from family and pets.

• Avoid being outside during times when mosquitoes are most active such as dusk and dawn.

• Remove items outside your home that allow for standing water such as old tires, cans, or plastic containers. Standing water provides a perfect habitat for mosquitoes to multiply.

What is St. Croix County Public Health doing to reduce the incidence of vector-borne diseases?

For the past several years, Public Health has contracted with the La Crosse County Vector Control Program to provide vector control services to St. Croix County. The goal of the program is to prevent human and animal infection by interrupting the vector-host cycle. Specific program activities involve monitoring for potential mosquito habitat sites such as old tires, and buckets and other receptacles that hold standing water. Whenever possible these habitat sites are eliminated or at least treated with targeted insecticide that kills the larvae.

Places such as ditches, storm sewers, woodland, and ponds are also monitored, as they can be a habitat for Culex mosquitoes (the mosquito that transmits West Nile Virus). In cases where unattended birdbaths, wading pools or similar smaller numbers of containers were found, vector program staff would assist residents with clean up and provide educational materials concerning mosquitoes, mosquito-borne disease and habitat reduction.

The vector control staff set up ovitraps to collect and enable identification of the types of mosquitoes in the area. In 2017, 347 mosquito-borne disease habitat sites were monitored and 175 traps were placed in St. Croix County.

For more information, contact Public Health at 715-246-8330.

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