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Stay safe during outdoor activities



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July 23, 2014 - By Katie Winkler

Review Staff Writer

When hiking through the Bald Mountain trails or biking on the Polly Ann or Paint Creek, residents need to be aware of the dangers that lurk between the trees.

In 2013, there were four reported cases of West Nile virus in Oakland County and none so far recorded this year, according to the Oakland County Health Department.

Tony Drautz, of Oakland County Administrative Health Services explains that the best way to reduce your risk of West Nile virus is prevention of all mosquito bites. Mosquitoes are commonly out during dawn and dusk. Using insect repellent whenever possible, wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants whenever out in wood and bushy areas.

Not only can precautions be taken minimize the amount of mosquitos bites individuals get, but homeowners can eliminate breeding areas around their yard, which will also keep mosquitos out of the yard.

"The biggest things that home and business owners should do is empty anything where water collects because that is where they breed. If you have bird baths, boats, buckets, tires, or anything that would hold water after a rain, you want to keep those empty because mosquitos breed in pools of water," Drautz said.

According to Drautz, about 80 percent of people that become infected with West Nile will never know because they won't acquire any symptoms. The other 20 percent may experience fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and skin rashes.

"You should just protect yourself because you never know what disease the mosquito that bites you could be carrying. It is best to try and prevent it as much as you can," Drautz said.

While Lake Orion residents may be at risk for West Nile virus, tick bites turning into Lyme disease is less of a concern. Medical Entomologist from Michigan Department of Community Health, Erik Foster, explained that Oakland County has a few reports of diagnosed cases of Lyme disease this year, but all were travel related outside of the area.

"To date, we don't have any indication that ticks that transmit Lyme disease are in Oakland County. We have done some looking this year and a few years ago," Foster said.

In order to be infected with Lyme disease, someone needs to be bitten by a blacklegged tick, the only tick in eastern United States that holds the virus.

These ticks reside in the western region of Michigan, so Oakland County is not at risk. The best way to prevent Lyme disease is being educated on where you are traveling and what types of precautions need to be taken, according to Foster. It is recommended to use area repellent and check for ticks after being in wooded areas, where ticks may lie.

"Buzz-Off" has created a brand of clothing, pretreated with Permetrin, or hikers and campers that fight ticks from sticking to your body.

When traveling to areas that are infested with blacklegged ticks, make sure to check for ticks on your body or shower quickly after coming into a safe area. If ticks are imbedded on your skin, the most commonly accepted way to remove them is with fine-tipped tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible and slowly and steadily pulling straight away from the skin. Wash the area with soap and water after tick removal.

"Lyme disease takes 24 to 48 hours to be transmitted. If you can pull it off quickly, the chances of getting Lyme disease is very low," Foster said. "A blacklegged tick may stay on you for 3-7 days."

If the ticks are not removed before they spread the Lyme disease virus, one may experience fever, headache, body aches, and erythema migranes known as the "bulls-eye" rash about a week after the initial bite.

Summer is the most common time for ticks and mosquito related diseases, so the best way to prevent infection is to be aware of where these insects reside and how to protect yourself. For more information on West Nile and Lyme disease visit Michigan.gov.

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