Sudbury·Audio

Fight the bite: avoiding West Nile virus, Lyme disease

If your summer goals include spending more time outdoors, the Sudbury and District Health Unit is offering tips to avoid illnesses spread by insects.

Sudbury and District Health Unit offers tips for preventing bites from pesky insects

The Sudbury and District Health Unit says not all ticks carry Lyme disease, but it's a good idea to get checked out if you've been bitten. (CBC)

If your summer goals include spending more time outdoors, the Sudbury and District Health Unit wants to help you avoid illnesses spread by insects.

Lyme disease and West Nile virus are carried by ticks and mosquitoes respectively.

Not all ticks carry the disease, but it's a good idea to check for the bugs regardless, says Rachel O'Donnell, an environmental support officer with the health unit in Sudbury, Ont.

Ticks typically hang out in long grass and can attach themselves to humans. If a tick is found attached to skin, O'Donnell says don't panic — just use fine-tipped tweezers to remove it.

"Grab the tick close to the skin and gently pull straight up," says O'Donnell.

"You will want to wash the area with soap and water, put the tick in some kind of container or Ziploc baggie and bring it to the health unit."

From there, O'Donnell says you should visit your health care provider to be tested for Lyme disease, to determine if treatment is needed.

The last reported case of Lyme disease in a human in Sudbury was in 2008.

West Nile virus symptoms vary

As for mosquitoes, O'Donnell says the best way to prevent getting West Nile virus is to try to avoid bites altogether.

"Use an insect repellent approved by Health Canada and follow the recommendations on how to apply it," she says. "Stay indoors if possible from dusk to dawn when mosquitos are most active."

O'Donnell also recommends wearing light-coloured clothing, long sleeve shirts and long pants.

Symptoms of West Nile virus range from mild to severe, O'Donnell says. Some people might not have any symptoms, while others might get a fever, headache, body aches, mild rash or swollen lymph glands.

Anyone who may experience these symptoms should see a doctor O'Donnell suggests.

The last human case of West Nile virus was reported in Sudbury in 2015. Before that, it was 2006.

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