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April is Tick and Mosquito Awareness Month; "Fight the Bite" Poster Contest Winners to be Announced

Raleigh

April is Tick and Mosquito Awareness Month in North Carolina, where last year more than 800 cases of tick-borne disease and more than 100 cases of domestically acquired and travel-associated mosquito-borne diseases were reported, based on preliminary data.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Division of Public Health use this observance, proclaimed by Governor Roy Cooper, to collaborate with health agency partners and schools to elevate awareness about the dangers of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases and to educate about protective measures. Winners of a statewide awareness poster contest for students in grades K-12 are to be announced at an event in Raleigh on April 24.  

"Ticks and mosquitoes are common in our state, and they carry bacteria and viruses that can cause serious infections," said Alexis M. Barbarin, Ph.D., State Public Health Entomologist. “The best way to prevent illnesses associated with ticks and mosquitoes is to take protective measures, like using DEET and other insect repellents and avoiding wooded, grassy or brushy areas.” 

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis — a bacterial illness that can cause fever, headache and other flu-like symptoms — are all conditions that can be acquired in North Carolina from tick bites. Most diagnoses are reported from June through September. Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiosis accounted for more than half of tick-borne diseases reported last year. 

Nearly 70 percent of mosquito-borne infections reported in the state in 2018 were acquired during travel outside the continental United States, including the five reported cases of Zika virus infection. To date, all cases of Zika reported in North Carolina have been associated with travel outside of the continental United States. 

The most commonly reported mosquito-borne illnesses that can be acquired in North Carolina are LaCrosse, West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis. 

To reduce exposure to ticks: 

•    Avoid tick habitats, such as wooded, grassy or brushy areas.
•    Use tick repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) on exposed skin and wear permethrin-treated clothing. Use caution when applying to           children.
•    Reduce tick habitats with selective landscaping techniques.
•    If there is a tick attached to your body, carefully remove the tick by grasping it with fine-tipped tweezers as close as possible to your skin,           then apply a steady, gentle pull until it releases.

To reduce exposure to mosquitoes: 

•    Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when outside. Use caution when applying to children.
•    Install or repair screens on windows and doors, and use air conditioning if possible.
•    Talk with your primary care provider or local health department if you plan to travel to an area where exotic mosquito-borne diseases occur.         Always check your destination to identify appropriate prevention methods.
•    Women who are pregnant should not travel to areas with risk of Zika. Women who are trying to get pregnant and their partners should avoid          nonessential travel to areas with a CDC Zika travel notice.
•    “Tip and Toss” – Reduce mosquito breeding by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes,            discarded tires and birdbaths at least once a week.

As part of its education campaign, DHHS will kick off its 2019 “Fight the Bite” campaign on April 24 with the “Fight the Bite” poster contest awards being presented from 1-2 p.m. at the Innovation Center, DEQ Building, 201 W. Jones St., Raleigh. Entries are divided into three grade categories, K-4, 5-8 and 9-12.

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