OLEAN - A walk outside, in the backyard or the park will be all the proof needed to know that there are mosquitoes out and about already. Ticks, especially disease carriers, are out in full force as well. Cattaraugus County health officials are warning people to take precautions.
Wet spring weather has offered a productive breeding ground for blood-sucking nuisances of a couple varieties this year, and the nice weather has just started. Employees of the Cattaraugus County Health Department have been out for the last few days, trying to get an account of how many, and what kind of, mosquitoes and ticks may be out already. The variety of the pests can dictate what potentially harmful diseases people should be on the lookout for, and not just for themselves, but for their pets as well, Dr. Kevin Watkins, county health director, said Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the county Board of Health.
"We are already getting complaints from the Killbuck area of the county, about mosquitoes," Watkins said. "Right now, we have people out doing surveillance, trying to get preliminary numbers of larvae, pupae and adults."
That baseline will help in determining where and how soon aerial larvicide spraying will take place, Watkins said. Part of the issue is that there must be at least two weeks of advertising in local newspapers before spraying can take place, and the first ads are not expected to go out until the end of this week, he said.
"We are still early in the season and, as the rain continues, we are going to see a large number of mosquitoes and spraying may be needed," he said.
In previous years, with dry conditions and low counts of the insect, spraying has not been needed. Early in the legislative year, the Cattaraugus County lawmaking body votes to approve a spending plan to spray, should such an event be needed. That vote has already taken place this year.
"We are still early in the season and, as the rain continues, we are going to see a large number of mosquitoes and spraying may be needed."
Dr. Kevin Watkins
Cattaraugus County public health director
"Until we can get our baseline and determine if we need to spray, precautions are recommended for people during the dawn and dusk timeframes," Watkins said. "When you are out during those times, it is best to wear long sleeves and pants, as well as using repellant. It is also recommended that all pools of stagnant water be disposed of, to lessen the occurrence of the insects."
If the mosquitoes are not bad enough, it is the time of year that ticks are mostly in the nymphal stage, Watkins said. That stage is when transmission of diseases, such as Lyme Disease, is transmitted, and New York state has already taken the year into consideration.
"In February, the New York State Department of Health produced their surveillance results for 2013," he said.
During testing in that year, they found that about 40 percent of ticks in Olean's Gargoyle Park tested positive for the disease, about the same rate for those tested in Allegany State Park.
Young ticks, nymphs, are most active from mid-May to late July, Watkins said, making this the prime time for their prevalence. Adult ticks are generally out from October until temperatures are consistently freezing.
"When you are out, once you come in, tick checks are important," Watkins said. "Make sure you are also checking your pets as well. A dog could have a dozen under all of that fur."
Symptoms of Lyme Disease include fever, headache, fatigue and rash. Watkins said, left untreated, the disease can also spread into the joints, causing arthritis. It can also cause Bell's Palsy and meningitis.
While the disease can take as long as six weeks to show in tests, treatment is relatively cheap and easy, Watkins said.
The same exposure techniques for mosquitoes are recommended for ticks. Watkins said the county Health Department maintains a healthy partnership with health care providers in the county to educate on how to reduce exposure to ticks and on how to recognize symptoms of the disease.
No vaccine is available for Lyme's Disease.