Fall is a great season to get outdoors. It’s one of the best times of the year to get outside and enjoy hiking, backpacking, and other healthy outdoor activities with the whole family. The trees come alive with color, the air is nice and crisp, and the swarms of insects and lush thickets of poison ivy that are abundant during the summer start to die back. But even though there are fewer insects, you still have to be careful about insect bites in the fall.
Most cases of tick-borne disease and mosquito-borne disease occur during spring and summer, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about biting insects and ticks during the fall.
What are vector-borne diseases?
Vector-borne diseases include bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases transmitted by vectors. A vector is a biting insect or tick that transmits diseases or parasites between organisms. The vectors that Americans have to worry about most are mosquitoes and ticks, especially if you spend time outdoors.
According to the World Health Organization, vector-borne diseases account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases. When people talk about diseases caused by ticks and mosquitoes, they are talking about vector-borne diseases.
Not all vectors carry all diseases
Bites from ticks and mosquitoes can cause serious illness and even death. But a single mosquito doesn’t carry dengue and Zika and West Nile, and a single tick won’t carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and babeisiosis. Different types of ticks and mosquitoes carry different types of diseases, and those vectors are found in different regions.
Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever infect tens of thousands in the U.S. each year. There are many other tick-borne diseases found in the United States including: Tularemia, Colorado tick fever, babeisiosis, anaplasmosis, and more.
The CDC has some great information on the different types of tick-borne illness, the types of ticks that carry certain diseases, and where those ticks are most commonly found.
Some of the more common mosquito-borne diseases include: dengue, malaria, and the Chikungunya, West Nile, and Zika viruses. Dengue is the most common arboviral disease in the world. 40% of the global population lives in areas of dengue transmission.
Remember that ticks and mosquitoes are out longer than most people realize
Ticks and mosquitoes are a real public health threat. Most people recognize that there are plenty of insects out during the spring and summer months, but they forget – or don’t even realize – that insects are still around in the early parts of fall. Keep yourself safe from insects and vector-borne diseases this fall.
Prevent insect bites
- Wear insect repellent with active ingredients registered with the EPA such as DEET, picaridin, etc.
- Shower as soon as you return home from an outing.
- Wear long protective clothing.
- Avoid overgrown and wooded areas whenever possible.
- Check thoroughly for ticks.
- Eliminate standing water in your yard.
- If you are bitten by a tick or mosquito, and develop fever, rash, fatigue, or other symptoms, seek immediate medical care.