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Public Health Emerging Issues

June 17, 2021


How to stay safe from common, but dangerous bugs this summer

  • Mesa County Public Health is committed to helping our community enjoy an outdoor lifestyle while preventing disease and limiting adverse health impacts.  
  • Mesa County does not have those giant cicadas that have been spotted up and down the east coast and the mid-Atlantic, but there are some bugs that unlike the cicada can transmit diseases.
  • Bugs that pose a threat in Western Colorado will be with us through the summer and until the first hard freeze (usually in September or October).
  • Mosquito bites can be more than annoying, they can transmit diseases like West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis.
  • There are 28 different types of mosquitoes present in Western Colorado, the Culex species are the only mosquitoes that cause disease (West Nile virus).
  • Mesa County Public Health, in partnership with the Grand River Mosquito Control District, collects and analyzes mosquitos from traps across Mesa County to monitor mosquito activity and types.
  • Last year (2020) saw reduced Culex mosquito populations, with a peak week of 930 Culex mosquitoes collected, compared to the previous year (2019) which saw a peak of 2,374 in a single week.
  • To stay healthy this summer:
    • Check around your property and remove any standing water where mosquitoes can breed. 
    • Wear an insect repellent that contains DEET.
    • Dress in long sleeves and pants that have been sprayed with repellent.
    • Limit your time outside, especially at dusk and dawn as this is when mosquitoes are most active.
  • The mild winter that a lot of the country experienced this past season has resulted in large tick populations.
  • Preventing tick bites is the best protection from diseases transmitted by ticks.
  • Colorado does not have ticks that carry Lyme disease, however, there are some other diseases you should be aware of. 
  • Diseases transmitted by ticks include:
    • Tick-borne relapsing fever is a bacterial infection that can cause recurring bouts of fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and nausea.  It is usually linked to sleeping in rustic, rodent-infested cabins in the mountains. It’s spread by infected soft ticks.
    • Tularemia is a disease that can infect animals and people.  Symptoms vary depending on how the person was infected, but are typically severe. In most cases, it can be treated successfully with antibiotics. It’s spread by infected dog ticks, wood ticks, and lone star ticks.
    • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a serious bacterial illness, which can be deadly if not treated early with the right antibiotic. Many people experience fever, headache, and rash. The name can be misleading as this illness is also found in the Midwest and Southeastern United States. It’s spread by infected dog ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks, and brown dog ticks.
    • Colorado Tick Fever is a rare, viral disease. It’s spread by Rocky Mountain wood ticks.
  • If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic, just remove it as soon as you can. When you check for ticks, ask someone to help as some of the areas might be hard to see yourself. Be sure to look:
    • Under the arms,
    • In, around and behind the ears,
    • Inside belly button,
    • Back of the knees,
    • In and around the hair,
    • Between the legs, and
    • Around the waist.
  • Use an EPA-approved repellent that’s effective against ticks–look for a product that contains DEET, IR3535, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or 2-undecanone. 
  • Avoid contact with ticks by walking in the center of trails and not heading into wooded, brushy areas with high grass.