As we officially welcome the summer season this Friday, the Virginia Department of Health reminds everyone the importance of eliminating mosquito breeding sites and taking the proper steps to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance, but can also pose a serious risk for the spread of disease.
Every summer the Northern House mosquito transmits West Nile virus (WNV) in Virginia, and 2018 was a record year for WNV, causing severe disease and multiple fatalities throughout the Commonwealth. This particular mosquito species breeds in stagnant water that contains high levels of organic materials (such as dead leaves, algae, grass clippings, or livestock manure). It is an active biter in the evening, nighttime, or early morning hours. This mosquito will also enter homes through any unscreened doors or windows and bite residents after the lights are out at night.
Consider landscaping or filling with sand and gravel to reduce puddles of standing water, draining and covering any unmaintained swimming pools, or any ornamental ponds that do not contain fish, or larviciding un-dumpable aquatic mosquito habitats with dunks or granules to reduce the risk of breeding mosquitoes in the standing water that serves as ideal breeding habitats for WNV-transmitting mosquitoes. Wherever possible; tip, toss, and cover water-holding containers such as buckets, wheel barrows or plastic tubs to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your yard. The State Public Health Entomologist, Dr. David Gaines, recommends sitting in a well-lit area if outside at night and wearing long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt with EPA-registered insect repellent applied during any outdoor activity.
The majority of people infected with WNV never feel sick. However, about 1 in 150 of infected people will develop a serious, and sometimes fatal, illness. There are several other mosquito-borne viruses such as the La Crosse encephalitis virus, St. Louis encephalitis virus, or the Eastern equine encephalitis virus that may be carried by other backyard breeding mosquitoes and may similarly cause illnesses in Virginia citizens.
Stay up-to-date with WNV case data and learn more about mosquito surveillance in Virginia by checking out the “Virginia Mosquito Activity Reports” on the “Bugs & Human Health” statistics page. Tune in to hear about WNV prevention from Fairfax County’s MC Bugg-Z in his newest rap “West Nile Story”.
We hope you and your family have a safe and healthy summer!
Most of these injuries take place at private residences, so it is important to use pool chemicals properly and keep them safely stored away from children and pets. For more information, visit the Blue Ridge Poison Control Center website: https://med.virginia.edu/toxicology/wp-content/uploads/sites/268/2019/06/Jun19-PoolChemicals.pdf
Target Shooting and Lead
People who routinely go target shooting are at increased risk for exposure to lead. When a gun is fired, lead dust and vapors are released and can be breathed in or settle on the skin, hair, or clothes. Lead has no biological role in the body, and no level of lead is known to be safe. Lead is especially harmful to children, and can contribute to learning disabilities or ADHD.
Protect Your Child from Lead
It only takes a small amount of lead to raise a child’s blood lead level. Lead dust brought home from a shooting range on shoes or clothing can settle on floors, then be picked up on objects or a child’s hands, and from there taken to a child’s mouth. After going shooting, wash your hands, arms, and face to remove lead from your skin. Change your clothes when you get home and wash them separately. Keep down the amount of lead dust in the home through regular wet cleaning of floors. If you shoot regularly and have a child who is less than 6 years old, talk to your child’s doctor about lead poisoning and whether your child should be tested.
For more information for indoor gun range owners, employees, and customers, please see our handout on Lead and Firing Ranges fact sheet.
Protect the ones you love: vaccinate your pets
What is kratom?
Kratom is an herbal extract made from the leaves of a tropical evergreen tree. It is sold as a herbal supplement in the United States. Kratom has some properties similar to opiates, but also can act as a mild stimulant. Some people take kratom to reduce opiate cravings or treat pain. Others take it recreationally, believing it helps improve mood.
Why am I hearing so much about kratom lately?
Kratom was first introduced into the US in the late 1990s and for years its use was very limited. In recent years kratom use has become much more common, possibly because of the opiate epidemic and people trying to use kratom to reduce their dependence on opiates. A new study on Poison Control Center calls related to kratom found they’ve become much more common in the past few years. In 2011 Poison Control Centers received 13 calls about kratom. This rose to 682 in 2017, and two-thirds of the 1807 kratom-related calls between 2011–2017 happened in 2016 and 2017.
Is kratom safe?
The sale of kratom is not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), meaning the FDA does not inspect products to make sure they contain the ingredients they’re supposed to, the concentration of the active ingredients are correct, or that they are not contaminated. Because of this different products can differ in strength. People can overdose on kratom, and it can interact with other medications, alcohol, or recreational drugs in ways that can be dangerous. Kratom has been linked to 44 drug-associated deaths, mostly in combination with other drugs, but in a few cases kratom was the only drug used. Kratom can be addictive, and babies born to mothers who use kratom sometimes have to be treated for opiate withdrawal symptoms. Companies selling kratom don’t have to follow safe manufacturing regulations, and in 2018 there was an outbreak caused by Salmonella bacteria in kratom that made people sick in 41 states.
Is kratom legal?
Some states or localities have laws against the sale or possession of kratom. Currently, in February 2019, kratom is not regulated in Virginia, but it is illegal in Washington, D.C. There are currently no federal laws regulating kratom, although the FDA has used its authority to regulate dietary additives to restrict the import of kratom.
What are the side effects of kratom?
Kratom is a drug and can have side effects that can be dangerous. Kratom causes loss of appetite, insomnia, tremors, and rapid heartbeat. People often report feeling itchy after taking it. It can cause nausea and vomiting. At high doses kratom can cause seizures. People who take kratom regularly can develop liver injury.
I have been using kratom, what should I do?
Talk to your doctor about why you’ve been using kratom and ask about alternative medications and possible side effects when quitting. Even if you don’t plan to stop taking kratom you should talk to your doctor about potential interactions with other medications or drugs or alcohol and the possibility of becoming dependent on kratom. Women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or nursing should stop taking kratom to protect their baby from exposure. Like all drugs, kratom should be stored out of the reach of children.
If you or someone else, especially a child, ingests kratom accidentally, call the Poison Control Center hotline at 1-800-222-1222. If the person is having severe side effects, call 911.
In November of 2017, a tick species previously unknown to the US called Haemaphysalis longicornis, or the Asian longhorned tick, was discovered both on a sheep and in a pasture in New Jersey. Since then, this new tick species has been found in eight additional states, including 17 counties and one city in Virginia.
The Asian longhorned tick is native to East Asia and has also been well described in New Zealand and Australia. In the tick’s native range, it has been known to cause Theileriosis disease in cattle, as well as a frequently fatal viral disease called “Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome” (or SFTS) in humans; the SFTS virus resembles Heartland virus, a pathogen that may be found in Virginia’s environment. There is also some research from this tick’s native territory in Asia showing that the Asian longhorned tick might be capable of transmitting Lyme disease (from an Asian Borrelia species), as well as Human Anaplamsosis and Ehrlichiosis pathogens, and a Spotted fever Rickettsiosis. However, more time will be needed to assess the tick’s ability to acquire and transmit these various pathogenic agents found in the United States.
An interesting feature of this tick and a major factor enabling its rapid spread, is the ability to reproduce asexually, a process known as parthenogenic reproduction. To date, no males of this species have been confirmed among the many thousands of females that have been discovered. This tick also boasts a broad host range and has been found on birds, rodents, terrestrial mammals, livestock, domestic pets, and even humans. Also, this species of tick has been found in both field and forested environments in Virginia and may be common in pasturelands where livestock might be found grazing. This is atypical of Virginia’s most common human-biting tick species, as they are more likely to be found in a forested environment.
For safety purposes, it is important to take precautionary measures to help reduce your risk of tick bites year round. Here are some steps you can take to avoid being bitten:
- Use EPA registered repellents, such as permethrin, to treat your shoes, socks, pants, and shirts, and ALWAYS follow the product label for use.
- Ticks typically start to climb onto people from the ground, or from low vegetation, so the use of repellents and protective clothing should also be from the ground, up. Tuck your pant legs into your socks and shirt into your pants when in forest or pasture environments.
- Avoid any unnecessary walks in brushy or wooded environments, or grassy fields, especially when not using repellents.
For more information regarding ticks and tick-borne illnesses, visit our ‘Bugs’ and Human Health page on the Virginia Department of Health website under Environmental Epidemiology at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/bugs-human-health
Lead is Still Found in Many Homes
Lead is a toxic metal that is still present in and around many homes in lead-based paint and urban soils. Lead can also be tracked in if parents have jobs or hobbies that expose them to lead. Children who are exposed to lead at a young age are at increased risk for speech delay, learning disabilities, and ADHD. A simple blood test can tell if your child has been exposed to lead. If you have children under six years old, ask your doctor if they might be at risk for lead poisoning. See the EPA’s home page on lead for more information.
Protect Your Child from Lead Around Your Home
If you live in a home built before 1978 your home may contain lead paint. Use a damp rag to clean up any paint chips. Frequent wet cleaning will remove dust and dirt that could contain lead. Leave shoes by the door to avoid tracking in lead, and don’t let your child play in bare dirt around the house. If you do renovation projects, hire a contractor with RRP certification or follow guidelines for safe do-it-yourself renovation.
Lead Abatement Assistance is Available in Richmond and Roanoke
The cities of Richmond and Roanoke have obtained federal grants that will help pay to control lead hazards in private homes for qualifying homeowners. Residents of those cities who are interested should contact their local health department.