By Public Affairs Office, Army Public Health CenterJune 27, 2018
With the summer season in full swing, Army Public Health Center entomologists recognize the undeniable presence of mosquitoes and ticks, and emphasize the importance of being aware that their bites can transmit illnesses.
While not every mosquito or tick is infected, experts believe it is important to use protective measures to prevent bites and the potential diseases they can carry. Dr. Robyn Nadolny, a biologist and program coordinator at the APHC Tick-Borne Disease Laboratory (TBDL), emphasizes disease prevention saying, ticks are everywhere and people need to make themselves aware.
"Anyone can get a tick and get sick," she said.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Clark, an entomologist and deputy chief of the Entomological Sciences Division at the APHC, stresses the importance of personal protection against bites from both ticks and mosquitoes. "The best way to ensure you don't get sick is to not get bitten," he said.
Army entomologists say protecting yourself from tick and mosquito bites while outdoors is easy. Both Nadolny and Clark advise the use of an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535 on exposed skin, and the use of the insecticide permethrin on clothing. The Army issues factory-treated permethrin uniforms to Soldiers as well as insect repellents containing the compounds mentioned above for use on skin to ensure they have maximum protection while conducting operations. These repellents, permethrin aerosols, and factory-treated permethrin clothing can also be purchased online or at any outdoor sports retailer.
Mosquitoes and ticks spread diseases to people, pets and other animals through pathogens in their saliva. As a result, prompt removal of a tick is one way to reduce risk of disease transmission, Nadolny said. This is because, for most tick-borne diseases, the tick needs to be attached for 24-48 hours to transmit pathogens. If a tick is found attached to the skin, experts recommend removing the tick by using pointy tweezers, grabbing the tick close to the skin and pulling it out slowly. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, can transmit diseases immediately upon biting you so bite prevention is absolutely critical, Clark said.
They also recommend doing a thorough tick check after spending time in tick habitat and putting clothes through a cycle on hot in the dryer immediately after getting home in order kill any ticks on the clothes. This is because, unlike mosquitoes, ticks can take their time finding a nice spot to bite you. Clark recalls times when ticks picked up on his clothing during the day were found crawling on him at night when he was working in Kenya. The ticks had crawled off his clothing and onto the bed in search of a meal.
Other efforts can be taken to reduce the chances of getting a mosquito or tick-borne disease. These efforts focus on minimizing contact with these pests. By eliminating tall grass and brush around the home, one can reduce harborage areas for ticks and mosquitoes, as well as for other animals that might carry ticks into the yard. Minimizing areas that collect rain water like clogged gutters, trash, flower vases/pots and puddles denies breeding habitat for mosquitoes. Also, keeping doors closed and window screens in good repair will deny hungry mosquitoes access to your house.
The Army Public Health Center, Laboratory Sciences Directorate/TBDL offers a program to military personnel, their dependents and Department of Defense civilians called the DOD Human Tick Test Kit Program, where ticks which have bitten individuals can be sent for identification and disease testing. The program is meant to serve as a 'first alert' for tick-bite patients and their healthcare providers. In addition, Army public health personnel routinely conduct surveillance to monitor mosquito and tick populations and provide needed data to vector control personnel.
For those looking for more information, the Entomological Sciences Division at the Army Public Health Center has fact sheets, posters and videos on mosquito and tick bite prevention, among other things. Some of the more recent products include the following YouTube videos.