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Health unit cautions against disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes

As summer temperatures wane, a local health unit reminds to be on the lookout for disease-carrying insects.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit says anyone going outdoors should protect themselves against black-legged ticks, which can carry Lyme Disease, and mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus. The health unit says both species stay active through the late summer and fall.

Officials advise wearing closed shoes and long-sleeved shirts and pants, pulling their socks over their pant legs, applying bug spray which contains DEET, and staying on marked trails. Light-coloured clothing is most effective, as it both deters and makes it easier to spot the insects, according to officials.

Keeping ticks off your property by trimming grass, bushes, and branches is also recommended. For mosquitoes, the health unit recommends functional screens on windows and doors, and removing any standing water, such as in eavestroughs, to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.

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The health unit says remove any ticks as soon as you see them by using fine-tipped tweezers to grip the tick’s head close to the skin, pulling it out straight and slowly, and washing the bite area with soapy water or alcohol-based sanitizer.

If a tick has been attached to you for more than 24 hours or is engorged after feeding on you for a long time, seek medical attention. Lyme Disease symptoms, such as skin rash, fever, headache, and pain in muscle or joints is also cause for a visit to a healthcare provider. If caught early, the health unit says Lyme Disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

The health unit reports nine cases of Lyme Disease in its medical region this year, but no cases of West Nile so far.

On Tuesday, it was announced two pharmaceutical companies will start a Phase 3 clinical study of their Vaccine Against Lyme for Outdoor Recreationists, or VALOR. About 6000 people over the age of five will take part in the trial in Europe and the United States, where Lyme Disease is rampant. If the trial is successful, the drug companies will seek approval for the vaccine, which would make it the first human vaccine available in the last two decades.

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