As the summer winds down and our kids are getting ready to go back to school many parents worry less about protecting their family from bug bites. But in fact, mosquitoes and ticks are still active during this time and can be more than just a nuisance. They can spread the viruses or bacteria that cause illness such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease. So keep yourself and all of your family protected.
What is West Nile virus?
West Nile is a virus spread to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Most cases of West Nile virus are mild where infected people may experience flu-like symptoms or show no symptoms at all. West Nile virus is also most active in Halton during August and September.
In fact, this year, the surveillance done by the West Nile team at Halton has shown an increase in West Nile activity compared to the last few seasons. Unfortunately, there was a probable human case reported last week of a Burlington woman in her seventies.
Of course it is always important to protect your children from bug bites, but with West Nile, it is older adults and people with underlying conditions that are more likely to develop the illness. We all need to take extra care to prevent mosquito bites. Make sure to protect yourself and your parents when the family is outdoors.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by blacklegged ticks. These ticks feed on the blood of humans and other animals. The ticks can harbour the bacteria and spread it while feeding. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic circular skin rash at the site of the bite. Left untreated, Lyme disease can affect the heart, nervous system or joints.
In Ontario, blacklegged ticks are more commonly found in areas along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River, but this does not mean that they may not exist in other areas of province.
Although the risk of illness is a reality, it doesn’t mean you and your family should stay indoors and miss the beautiful weather! Every summer my family and I go on hiking and camping trips throughout Ontario. We’ve been to Algonquin, Kilarney, and other spots around Lake Huron. You and your family can avoid insect bites by following these steps:
- Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Shoes and socks are also recommended.
- Spray clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellent that contains DEET if required. When using insect repellent, follow these specific instructions for the type and amount of insect repellent that should be used on babies and young children. Remember that insect repellents containing DEET should not to be used on children under 6 months of age.
- Avoid being outdoors in the early evening to morning, when mosquitoes are most active. Children who attend school during the daytime are at minimal risk for exposure.
- Check clothing and skin for any ticks after you’ve been in an area where there is tall grass or shrubs, or where ticks are known to live. Remove any attached ticks with tweezers. Contact the Health Department for information on having the tick tested.
- Reduce mosquito breeding sites around your home.
- Keep door and window screens in good repair. Use mosquito nets or screens for baby strollers.
Taking these few precautions can make a world of difference. You’ll end up with happy memories instead of avoidable discomfort and possible serious illness.
Share your experience:
To share your experience, or to get more information about bug bites, West Nile virus or Lyme disease, you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at email@example.com
- Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
About this guest blogger:
Lucy Sidey is a Public Health Inspector who specializes in West Nile Virus management and control. She has worked for the Halton Region Health Department, Health Protection Services since 2005. Lucy has experience in medical microbiology, food safety and parenting. She currently lives in Burlington with her husband and their two wonderful teen-aged sons. Lucy enjoys cooking and hiking.