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Insect Borne Illness

What are Insect Borne Illnesses?

Insect borne diseases are viral or bacterial illnesses contracted from insect (bug) bites. The most common insects that pass on disease are mosquitos, fleas, and ticks. Some common diseases known to be transmitted by insects are Zika virus, Yellow Fever, and Malaria from mosquitos, and Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from ticks (There are approximately 10 different diseases which can be contracted from a tick bite.)

Common Symptoms of Insect Borne Illnesses:

  • Fever 

  • Sore muscles    

  • Nausea    

  • Headache

  • Chills      

  • Skin rash          

  • Stomach pain

More serious symptoms might include:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Swelling/closing of the throat     

  • Chest pain    

  • Vomiting

  • Swelling of lips, tongue, face    

  • Racing heartbeat        

  • Dizziness

How are Insect Borne Illnesses Diagnosed?

Your doctor can typically diagnose an insect borne illness with a physical exam, a review of symptoms, and checking recent travel destinations. Lab tests (blood and urine) can diagnose certain insect borne diseases.

How to Avoid or Prevent Insect-borne Illnesses

  • Stay out of tall grass and bushes

  • Dress in long pants and shirts and wear a hat; tuck pants legs into your boots or socks

  • Wear light colored clothing, which makes it easier to spot crawling insects

  • Use bug spray that contains at least 10% DEET

  • Examine your skin and scalp after being outside, checking for bugs or bites

  • Always shower using plenty of soap after being outdoors

Insect Borne Illness Treatment

As soon as you recognize a bite, clean it with soap and water. Pat it dry and apply rubbing alcohol to the bite. If bitten by a tick, remove the tick before cleaning the area. Use tweezers to slowly pull it off your skin. Be careful not to leave any part of the tick in/on your skin. Dispose of the tick. Wash your hands and the bite area with soap and water and then wipe with alcohol. Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to the bite area.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, see a doctor. If you start having flu-like symptoms 3-10 days after being bitten see a doctor for diagnosis.

Living with Insect Borne Illnesses

Some insect borne illnesses can cause long-term chronic symptoms that affect the quality of life. Lyme disease, for example, can leave you chronically tired and sore. Zika virus can be passed on to a baby and cause microcephaly and an intellectual disability.

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