18 December 2017

People are being warned to remember insect repellent with fears a wetter than normal start to summer could see a spike in the number of diseases from mosquitoes and ticks.

Dr Ben Scalley, Director of Environmental Health at NSW Health, said the summer months were a peak time for mosquito and tick numbers, and urged people to guard against diseases carried by both insects.

“Both mosquitoes and ticks thrive in wet, warm conditions, with mozzies breeding in stagnant pools, while ticks live in moist, bushy areas,” Dr Scalley said.

“With a wetter than usual summer forecast, we are urging people to take simple precautions to prevent catching the harmful diseases these bugs carry.

“Mosquito bites can carry viruses that may cause symptoms including tiredness, rash, fever, and sore and swollen joints that can last up to weeks. And tick bites can cause allergic reactions with symptoms of lethargy, visual disturbance, breathing difficulties and weakness of limbs.”

Dr Scalley said people should take the following steps to avoid mosquito bites.

  • Screen all windows and doors to prevent mosquitoes from coming inside.
  • Avoid being outside unprotected, particularly during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. When outside cover up as much as possible with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear.
  • Apply mosquito repellent regularly to exposed areas (use as directed). Repellents containing Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin are best.
  • Do not use repellents on the skin of children under the age of three months. Instead, use physical barriers such as netting on prams, cots and play areas for babies.
  • Use vaporising mats indoors. Devices that use light to attract and electrocute insects are not effective.
  • When mosquitoes are present inside the room, use over-the-counter insecticide sprays, especially behind furniture and dark places.
  • When camping, use flyscreens, or sleep under mosquito nets.
  • Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by getting rid of items that hold water or by emptying the containers.

To reduce the likelihood of being bitten by a tick in areas where they are known to exist, people should:

  • wear suitable clothing like trousers tucked into socks and long-sleeved shirts
  • spray clothes and exposed skin with insect repellent
  • reduce stagnant water, leaves and garden litter to minimise tick-breeding areas.

Dr Scalley said if you do have ticks, remove them immediately.

“If you do find that you have ticks, remove them as soon as possible by using fine-tipped forceps, pressing the skin around where it’s lodged and gently detaching its head,” he said.