As part of Tick and Mosquito Awareness Month in April, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is launching its annual “Fight the Bite” campaign to educate the public about the dangers of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases.
The campaign is a collaboration between the DHHS and local health departments and schools to promote a K-12 poster artwork contest that uses illustration to increase tick- and mosquito-borne disease awareness. Entries are due April 10, and information on contest submission and deadlines can be found online. Winners of the statewide awareness poster contest will be announced at the end of April.
“Ticks and mosquitoes are everywhere in North Carolina and their bites can cause serious diseases,” Dr. Alexis M. Barbarin, state public health entomologist, said in a statement. “We encourage all North Carolinians to explore the outdoors but do so safely and take protective measures like using DEET or other EPA approved repellants.”
In 2022, almost 700 cases of tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses reported in the state.
Ticks live in wooded, grassy and brushy areas. Frequenting these areas can put you in contact with ticks and increase the potential exposure to vector-borne diseases, officials said. Most diagnoses of tick-borne diseases are reported between June and September, and cases of Lyme disease accounted for more than half of tick-borne diseases reported last year.
The department warns that Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases can cause fever, headache, rashes, flu-like illness and other symptoms that can be severe. Alpha-gal syndrome and southern tick-associated rash illness, or STARI, have been seen in the state as well.
The department recommends the following to reduce exposure to ticks:
- Use repellent that contains DEET or other Environmental Protection Agency-approved replicants on exposed skin and wear clothing treated with a pesticide called permethrin, and use caution when applying to children.
- Check yourself and your children for ticks if you have been in a tick habitat and remove them promptly.
- Reduce tick habitats with selective landscaping techniques.
The mosquito-borne diseases most often acquired in North Carolina are West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis and La Crosse encephalitis. North Carolina reported the second-highest number of La Crosse encephalitis cases in the United States between 2012 and 2021.
To reduce exposure to mosquitoes, officials suggest the following:
- Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET or equivalent when outside. Use caution when applying to children.
- Consider treating clothing and gear such as boots, pants, socks and tents with 0.5% permethrin pesticide.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors and use air conditioning if possible.
- “Tip and Toss” to reduce mosquito breeding. Empty standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths at least once a week.
Most mosquito-borne diseases reported in the state are acquired while traveling outside the continental United States, including cases of malaria, dengue, chikungunya and Zika.
Talk with your primary care provider or local health department if you plan to travel to an area where exotic mosquito-borne diseases occur. Always check your destination to identify appropriate prevention methods. Travel associated health risk information is available at www.cdc.gov/travel.
For more information on vector-borne diseases in North Carolina, please visit the NCDHHS Vector-Borne Diseases webpage here.