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by Jeremy Rush | Posted on Monday, Jul. 30, 2012 — 8:16 AM
Hot and humid temperatures across the Southeast may have people feeling lethargic, but conditions are perfect for active ticks and mosquitos. Insects are out in abundance and reaping the benefits from a mild winter and an early spring.
As a result, pediatricians with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt are experiencing a significant increase in patients being seen for insect-borne illnesses and infections in the hospital’s Emergency Department and clinics.
Doctors at Children’s Hospital say tick bites are posing a significant threat to children this year. Tennessee is experiencing an increase in cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a tick-borne illness that can become very serious if left untreated.
As of July 14, the Tennessee Health Department reported 304 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever throughout the state, compared with 255 cases during all of 2011.
“We have a very low threshold for treating tick-borne illnesses in the summertime,” said Buddy Creech, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt. “Children can get sick pretty quickly from diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis, and they can even get meningitis from these bacteria.”
He said it’s important for parents and caregivers to perform daily tick checks on children and know the symptoms of tick-borne diseases — fever, headache, rash or sensitivity to light.
Children can sometimes contract these illnesses without a tick actually being found, Creech said, since ticks are adept at taking blood meals quickly and then dropping off.
If a tick is engorged, it’s important to remove it immediately from the skin, including all of the insect’s parts, to avoid inflammation and infection.
The Tennessee Department of Health recommends the following tick safety tips:
Although mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile Virus are rare in the Middle Tennessee area, they are still very serious and can lead to meningitis or inflammation of the brain.
Creech said those traveling for the summer to Florida or other tropical areas should be careful. Some illnesses typically seen overseas—like Dengue Fever—are now being reported in the United States.
“When we do experience mosquito bites, we should care for them immediately with soap and water and use common sense,” said Creech. “Again, being aware of the symptoms and being proactive in preventing bites will help bring down instances of these diseases.”
Creech said mosquito repellants with DEET are very effective when applied correctly. Powerful oscillating fans can disrupt flight patterns of mosquitoes and can be very useful in outdoor areas of your home.
Additional mosquito safety tips from The Tennessee Department of Health include:
Visit Children’s Hospital’s website for more information on treating bug bites and stings or properly removing ticks. The Tennessee Department of Health offers additional information on recognizing and preventing mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses.
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