JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - With warmer weather on the way, the Missouri
Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) wants to remind those living
in and visiting the state to take precautions against tick and mosquito
bites. Both can transmit serious, and potentially deadly, illnesses and
these insects can be active anytime the ground is not frozen.
"As spring arrives, we are reminded what a beautiful state Missouri is,"
said Dr. Randall Williams, DHSS Director. "For all of us who enjoy the
outdoors, it creates more opportunities to enjoy the state's natural
splendor. I especially enjoy running in our state's parks and conservation
areas. For those of us in public health, this time of year serves as a
transition from flu season to the most prevalent time for diseases carried
by ticks and mosquitoes."
Missouri is home to a variety of tick species, meaning the state experiences
a variety of tick-borne illnesses. In 2018, Missouri reported 587 cases of
Rocky Mountain spotted fever and 369 cases of ehrlichiosis. In the United
States, 60 percent of cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever are in five
states, with Missouri being one. At least six different types of tick-borne
diseases in humans have been reported in Missouri, including Rocky Mountain
spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Lyme disease, Heartland virus and
Bourbon virus. West Nile virus is the most common virus spread by mosquitoes
in the United States. In 2018, 23 cases were reported in Missouri. Many of
these illnesses can be effectively treated if they are caught early,
however, on occasion they can be deadly.
Ticks can be found throughout Missouri, primarily in wooded and brushy
areas, tall grasses, and close to the ground in leaf litter. Objects that
collect water are the primary breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Objects such
as buckets, old tires, flower pots or clogged gutters are all items that can
Flooding events can produce large amounts of mosquitoes. Historically,
flooding events have not resulted in an increase in mosquito-borne disease
illness reports. This is because the mosquitoes that emerge after flooding
are not the same kinds of mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus.
Mosquitoes that emerge after flooding events are strong fliers and
aggressive biters, but they are nuisance species that do not pose a
significant disease risk.
Despite the presence of ticks and mosquitoes, everyone can safely enjoy the
outdoors by taking a few safety precautions.
"We encourage everyone to defend themselves by using insect repellent and
performing careful body checks after being outdoors to prevent these
diseases whenever and wherever you are in Missouri," said Williams. "While
the incidence of these diseases is low throughout the state, the severity of
illness can be high in some patients. So as always, prevention remains our
DHSS recommends the following precautions to prevent tick and mosquito
* Use an insect repellent with DEET, picaridin or IR3535 as the active
ingredient. For ticks, look for a product with at least 20 percent
concentration of one of these active ingredients.
* Apply repellent to exposed skin for protection that lasts several
hours whenever you spend time outdoors. DEET products should not be used on
infants under two months of age. Always apply repellent products according
to package instructions.
* When possible, wear protective clothing (light colored, long sleeved
shirts and pants) when outdoors to keep ticks off skin and make it easier to
see ticks that are crawling on clothing.
* Avoid areas including brushy areas, tall grasses, wood piles, and
leaf litter. When hiking, stay near the center of trails to avoid ticks.
* Reduce ticks around your home by keeping lawns mowed short, shrubs
and trees trimmed, and remove leaf litter, wood piles, fallen branches,
trash and debris from yards.
* Reduce mosquitoes around your home by cleaning out gutters and
remove anything in the yard that could hold standing water.
* Those with pets should talk with their veterinarian about use of
tick prevention treatments. Regularly check pets for ticks.
* Check for ticks while outdoors and again after returning from the
outdoors. If possible you should change clothes and shower soon after
spending time outdoors.
Preventing bites is the best way to avoid getting sick from any number of
diseases that ticks and mosquitoes can carry. Just one bite can lead to
serious illness. If you find an attached tick, do not panic. The tick should
be removed promptly. The longer it is attached, the greater the risk of
infection. To remove ticks:
* Using tweezers, grasp tick near its mouth and as close to your skin
* Pull tick firmly, straight out, away from skin. Do not jerk or twist
* Do NOT use alcohol, matches, liquid soap or petroleum jelly to
remove a tick.
* Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water after the tick
is removed. Apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
If bit by a mosquito, wash the site with soap and water. Anti-itch cream or
an ice pack can alleviate pain or itching.
Everyone should be aware of the signs and symptoms of tick- and
mosquito-borne diseases, which can vary among individuals and differ
according to the disease. In general, a sudden high fever, severe headache,
muscle or joint aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea can be signs of these
types of diseases. Additionally, a possible sign of tick-borne disease is a
pus-filled wound that appears at the site of a tick bite, or a rash that
follows a tick bite. You should consult your health care provider if
experiencing these symptoms. If these symptoms occur following a bite, or
even after exposure to a tick habitat, be sure to tell your health care