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Bugs make a “buzz” in Fillmore County

By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, Jun 21st, 2013
Posted in All Features

No one would ever roll up a newspaper, especially an old edition of the Fillmore County Journal, and use it to kill that horrifyingly gigantic spider that’s minding its own business just relaxing in the corner of your living room, right? Well, even if you did use our sacred published pages to take out one of the eight-legged arachnid friends, I agree it would be for a plausible reason. You can still read our cover stories if you go in for a direct hit and don’t smear the mess too much.

But spiders are of the least concern to bikers, hikers, campers, pet owners, and well, basically anyone who steps outside as wood ticks and mosquitoes are making their big debut this summer.

Mosquitoes, West Nile Virus, and other diseases

Mosquitoes are notoriously known for using humans as part of their expansive list of feeding grounds. But mosquitoes can cause more harm than just the annoying bites that leave behind mild inflammation and an agitating itch. Infected mosquitoes can transmit a variety of diseases to humans.

The most common in Minnesota is the West Nile Virus, a disease that can be unnoticeable, but also causes victims to experience flu-like symptoms. As of October 29, 2012 the Minnesota Department of Health reports that there were 70 cases of West Nile Virus in the state with one of them resulting in a death. The cases were spread all across 34 different counties. Cases are also discovered through blood donors. In 2012 there were 33 cases discovered in blood donations coming from 20 different counties.

Severe cases of West Nile Virus most frequently affect the elderly. The death rate in severe cases is around 10 percent. Currently there is only a vaccination for horses, and a human vaccination is still under development.

Another disease found in Minnesota that is transmitted through mosquito bites is LaCrosse Ensephalitis, a condition that can cause swelling of the brain in serious cases. Anywhere from three to thirteen cases per year in Minnesota is typical, especially among children.

Prevention measures to protect yourself from these diseases include wearing a mosquito repellant, wear long sleeved clothing, avoid outdoor activity at peak mosquito feeding times including dawn and dusk, and eliminating places on your property where standing water can collect. Mosquitoes are anticipated to be more populous this summer due to last year’s unhatched mosquitoes. Last year’s dry conditions and this year’s wet spring will allow for more than the typical amount of mosquitoes to hatch.

Ticks that stick

Another summertime pest is the wood tick. Wood ticks are actually arachnids that act as external parasites, drawing blood from their hosts as a main food source. One type of tick, the deer tick (also known as the blacklegged tick), also carries its fair share of diseases. Fillmore County is listed under the highest risk level for tick-borne diseases in the state of Minnesota, along with Winona and Houston in the southeast corner of the state.

In Minnesota, deer ticks most commonly pass on what is known as Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that can seriously affect both humans and animals. Lyme disease causes progressively worse symptoms the longer it goes untreated. At the beginning Lyme disease sufferers develop a rash, fatigue and other flu-like symptoms. In mid- to later stages, the victim often develops multiple rashes, fevers, dizziness, and problems with the nervous system. If you suspect you may have Lyme disease, it is important to see a doctor right away for testing. Treatment usually involves antibiotics.

In order to minimize your risk of receiving a tick-borne disease, it is important to be precautious during the peak time of the year running from May through mid-July. As ticks are found in wooded, bushy areas in addition to our backyards, it is important to use good repellant, wear appropriate clothing for various outdoor activities, and check for ticks frequently and promptly remove them.

To properly remove a tick from a human is to use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick by the head and slowly and steadily pull. Squeezing the tick is not advisable and an antiseptic should be applied once the tick is removed. The Minnesota Department of Health advises against folk remedies such as nail polish remover or matches, as these methods are not safe or effective.

Wood ticks affect both humans and animals, including pets. Wood ticks are often attracted to dogs. Linda Sifford, a doctor of veterinary medicine at the Root River Vet Center in Preston, Minn., reports that she has seen ticks attached to pets in every month except January in the past couple of years. Even so, Sifford states that there are two peak seasons, one in the late spring/early summer and one in the fall. “They are a year-round problem in Fillmore County,” comments Sifford, “This year seems to be especially bad, hardly a day goes by that aren’t removing ticks from pets.”

Sifford suggests that dogs undergo testing for Lyme disease, heartworm, and other tick-borne diseases at least once a year in an annual screening. “Many dogs have been exposed to Lyme disease and their owners don’t even know it,” says Sifford.

The best step a pet owner can take is prevention! Ticks need to be attached 24 to 48 hours to transmit Lyme disease, so removing ticks before this time frame arrives is vital. Even though there are preventatives available, the best one on the market is only 95 percent effective; meaning checking pets for ticks is a requirement.

Prevention is only half the battle, however. Dr. Sifford explains that in order to remove a tick, “You must grasp the tick as close to the head as possible with a tweezers and pull and twist at the same time.” The tick attachment site can be expected to appear red and sore for several days.

Dogs will show noticeable signs if they’ve been infected with Lyme disease. Some of the symptoms include shifting leg lameness, fever, joint pain and swelling, heart arrhythmias, and rarely kidney failure from protein loss through the kidneys. Arthritis may develop if Lyme disease goes untreated. It is important to take your pet to your veterinarian if you suspect your dog may be suffering from any of the symptoms. “Lyme disease is treatable if it is caught before permanent damage is done,” says Sifford.

Contending with pests such as mosquitoes and ticks are part of everyday life in Minnesota. Taking precautionary measures and following the proper steps help lower the risk of disease transmission and allow for an enjoyable outdoor season.


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9:00:38, Jun 24th 2013

Many Turtles says:
Nice article on the pesky insects and arachnids of Southeast Minnesota! A far better method of removing embedded ticks of all types, however, is a little gizmo called "the Tick Key." It is extremely easy to use, removes ticks safely and completely, attaches to a key ring making it easy to carry, and it's inexpensive ($6 or $7 if I remember correctly) too. Should be able to find some at area campgrounds (got mine from Maple Springs Campground near Forestville SP).

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