One benefit of a cooler spring was a lack of mosquitoes in Iowa, but Deputy State Epidemiologist, Ann Garvey says the rains and warm weather have change that situation. Garvey says that makes it important to wear insect repellent if you are going to be outside.
“We are hearing a lot anecdotally about nuisance mosquito activity and if you wear that insect repellent like a DEET product — that would be effective against mosquitoes and against the ticks — which we know are out and about this time of year as well,” Garvey says. If you are out during the day then you’ll need sunscreen along with the bug repellent. Doctor Garvey says the used of both often leads to a question.
“Sometimes people will ask ‘do we put the sunscreen on first or the insect repellent?’ The recommendation is to put the sunscreen on first and the insect repellent over the top,” according to Garvey. “You’ll often have to reapply the sunscreen more often than you will the insect repellent, so it’s important to read the directions and reapply as directed.” Garvey says mosquitoes can carry disease and if you are in areas with trees or lots of grass, you could also be bitten by ticks and exposed to a disease.
“The most common tick associated illness in Iowa is Lyme disease. We have several hundred cases every year. Last year we had about 250 cases so we expect we’ll see a large number of cases again this year,” Garvey says. Lyme disease is the only worry when it comes to ticks.
“The other two most common ticks are the American dog tick, and that can transmit illnesses like Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Tularemia,” Garvey explains, “and the Lone Star tick can transmit Tularemia and Erlichiosis and so while we talk a lot about the deer tick or the black legged tick, there are other types of ticks that can cause other types of illnesses.” People pay a lot of attention to avoiding getting bitten by a tick or a mosquito, but sometimes forget some common things at the holiday picnic that can also lead to illnesses. Garvey says they see a lot of illnesses created by improper food handling.
“So it’s important as we’re grilling and having those picnics and barbecues this weekend that we’re handling our food properly and encourage everybody to cook their meats to the proper temperature — and keep their hot foods hot and their cold foods cold,” Garvey says. You can find a variety of information on avoiding ticks and mosquitoes and proper food handling on the Iowa Department of Public Health website.