Jefferson County, Colo. — It’s warming up in Colorado, and just like you and your family are ready to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, insects are coming out, too! Before hitting the pool, hiking trail or even your backyard this summer, remember to take precautions to protect yourself from the serious diseases some bugs can carry.

Diseases from insects are on the rise across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diseases spread by mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled from 2004 to 2016 in the U.S. Colorado had more cases of diseases caused by mosquitoes than 80 percent of states in the U.S. On the other hand, Colorado had fewer cases of tick-caused diseases than 80 percent of states. 

In Colorado, there are a few diseases transmitted by bugs you need to know about:

  • West Nile Virus is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. West Nile Virus is common in Colorado, and can be very serious and life-threatening. Last year, the first case of West Nile in the state was found on June 30 in Jefferson County. While most people have no symptoms at all, some people with the virus develop a fever, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint aches, which can progress to serious illness.
  • Some mosquitoes can carry Zika, a virus that can be spread from mom to baby and cause birth defects. While the mosquitos that carry Zika do not live in Colorado, it’s important to protect yourself when traveling to areas like Mexico, the Caribbean and other areas of risk identified by the CDC. Symptoms of Zika are very similar to those of West Nile Virus.
  • Colorado tick fever and Tularemia are spread through bites of infected ticks and other small mammals. Tularemia is also spread through deer fly bites and through handling infected animal tissue, such as when hunting or skinning rabbits or when eating under-cooked meat of infected animals. The most common symptoms are fever, chills, headache, body aches and feeling tired, which can last up to several weeks.
  • The bubonic plague is spread by rodent fleas. People usually get plague from being bitten by a flea that is carrying the plague, or by handling an infected animal. Common symptoms are a sudden onset of severe discomfort, headache, chills, fever and pain in the lymph nodes.

However, just because the bugs are outside doesn’t mean you can’t be, too! There are some important steps you and your family can take to keep your summer insect-free and safe.

  1. Use an Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent with an approved active ingredient, such as DEET. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
    • Did you know?: You should choose the concentration of DEET in your bug spray that best fits the amount of time you’ll be spending outside. For example, if you’ll be spending 5 hours outside, choose an insect repellent with 25 percent DEET. If you’ll be spending less than an hour and a half, choose 5 percent DEET, because it lasts up to 90 minutes. Always follow instructions carefully!
      • You can use a product containing up to 30 percent DEET on any child over the age of 2 months of age, but don’t let them apply it themselves, and be sure everyone washes their hands well after application to prevent any of the insect repellent from getting in their eyes or mouths.
  1. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.
    • Did you know?: If you spritz your clothing with insect repellent, too, you’ll increase how much it protects you.
  2. Get rid of standing water and brush around your home.
    • Did you know?: Even an aluminum can or a planter saucer can hold enough water for mosquitoes to lay their eggs? Dump standing water out routinely!
  3. Follow CDC guidelines if you are traveling to an area with Zika.
    • Did you know?: The kind of mosquito that can carry the Zika virus has been found in some southern U.S. states, like Florida and Texas. Even though neither of these currently have a problem with Zika, you should take extra mosquito precautions when visiting. Better safe than sorry!
  4. Avoid contact with any wild animals or rodents, especially if they are dead.
    • Did you know?: Rats and mice don’t only spread diseases through their furry little bodies (and the things they leave behind…). They can spread disease to the fleas, ticks and mites that feed on them. Ick!
  5. Control ticks and fleas on your pets, and remove them daily.
    • Did you know?: Never crush a tick with your fingers. You can dispose of a live tick by putting it into alcohol, a sealed bag or container, wrapping it up in tape or flushing it.

If you think you may have a disease from the bite of an insect, see your healthcare provider right away.

For more info, visit www.jeffco.us/2363 or call Jefferson County Public Health at 303-232-6301.