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David Morgan
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Small Bite, Big Threat

April 7, 2014 - Zoonotic Diseases - Awareness

Department of Health Warns of Animal-Transmitted Diseases this World Health Day

Mosquitoes, flies, ticks and bugs may be a threat to your health – and that of your family - at home and when travelling. This is the message of this year’s World Health Day.

The New Mexico Department of Health joined the World Health Organization (WHO), to promote today, World Health Day 2014 and its focus on vector-borne (animal-transmitted) diseases. The theme for this year’s World Health Day is “Small bite, big threat”.

While many New Mexicans in our state are aware how mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus and fleas potentially are infected with Plague, there are lesser known but potentially deadly diseases in the state where the infectious agent is carried by ticks.

“There are usually a few cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever every year in New Mexico and occasional cases of diseases such as relapsing fever and Colorado tick fever,” said Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian with the Department of Health. “The risk to you or your family of being exposed to one of these potentially severe diseases can be greatly reduced by taking preventive measures to avoid ticks and their bite.”

The New Mexico Department of Health recommends the following prevention measures to decrease your risk of tick borne diseases:

  • While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • In areas where ticks are prevalent, use of repellents that contain 20 to 30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing can give protection that lasts up to several hours. Always follow product instructions, especially if using products on children. Other repellents may also be effective. Those registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may be found on their Find the Insect Repellent that is Right for You page.
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.

Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for up to an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.) New Mexico and the United States is fortunate compared to more than half the world’s population, which remains commonly at risk from diseases such as malaria, dengue, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, and yellow fever, carried by mosquitoes, flies, ticks, water snails and other animals. Every year, more than one billion people are infected and more than one million die from vector-borne diseases worldwide.

It is important to note dogs, New Mexico’s most common household pet, are very susceptible to tick bites and tickborne diseases. Vaccines are not available for all the tickborne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. For these reasons, it’s important to use a tick preventive product on your dog.

Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tickborne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect your pet has been bitten by a tick.

To reduce the chances that a tick will transmit disease to you or your pets:

  • Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
  • If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away.
  • Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about tickborne diseases in your area.
  • Reduce tick habitat in your yard.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about using tick preventives on your pet. Note: Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any tick products to your cats without first consulting your veterinarian!

For more information visit the World Health Day web page.

Media Contact

We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.