Take steps to avoid unfortunate encounters with creepy crawlers

July 28, 2010

By Staff

NEW — 8 a.m. July 28, 2010

Summer means barbecues, outdoor activities — and more encounters with biting and stinging bugs.

Keeping calm around buzzing bugs can help reduce the risk of winding up on the business-end of a bloodthirsty mosquito or irritated wasp.

The state Department of Health has a handy list detailing biting and stinging bugs found in the Evergreen State.

Bees play a crucial role in pollinating flowering plants, including many foods. Honeybees and bumblebees seldom sting as they leave the hive or nest to look for nectar or pollen — unless they get stepped on or deliberately provoked.

Wasps and yellow jackets — more easily provoked than bees — hunt for food and build nests during summer.

To keep from being stung by a bee or wasp, do not disturb the hive or nest. Do not swat at bees or wasps — the action agitates them and makes them more likely to sting.

Avoid brightly colored clothes, open-toed shoes, and perfumes or scented lotions when outside. Keep food covered or behind screens when eating outdoors. Dispose of food properly, including decaying fruit in late summer.

People allergic to wasp and bee stings should carry identification with the allergy information, plus any medicine they are taking. Severe reactions can affect the entire body and can occur very quickly — often within minutes — and may be fatal if left untreated.

Call 911 if someone stung by a bee or wasp experiences chest pain, face or mouth swelling; or has trouble swallowing or breathing; or goes into shock.

Summertime nuisances, like horse- and deerflies, can also deliver a painful, itchy bite. But scratching the bite might lead to infection.

Beware of horse- and deerflies near ponds, streams and marshes. The insects can transmit tularemia, a bacterial disease. Remember to cover exposed skin and use a repellent to keep the flies from biting.

The ticks found in Washington — hard and soft ticks — usually feed on animals, but feed on people sometimes, too.

Though Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever remain rare in Washington, hard ticks carry the diseases. The ticks live in wooded, brushy and grassy areas. Campers, hikers and other outdoors-folk should check themselves for ticks often.

Meanwhile, soft ticks transmit tick-borne relapsing fever — the most common tick-borne disease in the state. Houses and cabins infested with rodents may also be home to soft ticks. If a tick bite results in a fever, rash, pain or swelling, call a health care provider.

The state Department of Health offers useful tick-removal tips.

The mosquito season means increased concerns about West Nile virus.

In King County, a surveillance program tracks dead birds to monitor for the disease, because certain species of birds tend to get sick and die from West Nile quickly.

Report dead birds to Public Health – Seattle & King County online or call 206-205-4394.

The public health agency tracks information about dead birds, because increased numbers of dead birds in a particular area can be a West Nile warning sign. Some of the reported dead birds will be tested for the virus.

Throughout Washington, the mosquito-borne virus infected more people and caused the deaths of more horses in 2009 than in previous years. The numbers mean West Nile might be a continual presence in the state, and possibly King County.

Residents should take steps to lessen the chances of mosquitoes breeding on their property, by eliminating standing water. Residents should also take steps to prevent mosquito bites by wearing a mosquito repellent, plus long-sleeved shirts and long pants when mosquitoes are biting.

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