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Simple precautions help protect against warm-weather health risks

PROVIDENCE With increasing participation in outdoor activities, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) remind all Rhode Islanders to begin taking precautions to protect themselves against warm-weather health hazards, including animal, tick and mosquito bites.

"Although it's early in the warm-weather season, it's not too early to begin thinking about personal protection against tick and mosquito bites, about protecting ourselves and our families from animal bites," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "We see these health threats every year, and a few simple actions can help keep Rhode Islanders safe from tick and mosquito-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and from rabies exposure."

"As part of their normal seasonal routine, Rhode Islanders can protect themselves from exposure to West Nile Virus and EEE by avoiding mosquito bites and eliminating mosquito breeding grounds," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "At this time of year, residents are encouraged to remove anything in their yard that holds standing water and to make sure their gutters are clean so that they drain properly. Mosquitoes breed in standing water and just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes."

To help protect themselves and their families from ticks and mosquitos, Rhode Islanders should:

Dress for protection. Wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks during outdoor evening activities or when spending time in areas where ticks are common. Use bug spray. Use mosquito and tick repellent with DEET during outdoor activities, particularly at dusk and during evening hours, when mosquitoes are most active. Time activities for maximum protection. If possible, minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn. Inspect pets. Dogs that spend time outdoors can bring ticks into a home. Use a veterinarian-approved tick repellent on dogs and inspect animals for ticks. Evaluate the environment. Be sure all open windows are screened, repair any holes in screens, and fix loose screens. Remove any standing water around yards and houses by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate to reduce mosquito breeding.

To help protect themselves and their families from dangerous animal bites, Rhode Islanders should:

Vaccinate all pets against rabies. Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. If a pet has a wound of unknown origin, wear gloves when tending to the pet. Avoid contact with wildlife and stray animals. Do not attempt to pet, feed, or capture a wild or stray animal. Call the local animal control officer for assistance. Contain all garbage around your home. Keep all trash tightly secured, preferably in an indoor location such as a garage or shed. Bat-proof your home. Bats can enter a structure through open or damaged louver vents or windows, through cracks, or under loose shingles. Caulk any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch, and use window screens, chimney caps, and draft guards beneath doors to attics. Consider hiring a licensed professional to secure the home against bats. "With improving weather, we encourage all Rhode Islanders to get outside for some physical activity," said Dr. Fine. "A few precautions, including wearing sunscreen, will help make sure that outdoor time is as safe as possible."

For more information about protecting yourself against tick and mosquito-borne illnesses, visit http://www.health.ri.gov/disease/carriers/mosquitoes/ or http://www.tickencounter.org/

For more information about rabies, visit http://www.health.ri.gov/diseases/rabies/

For more information about bats, visit http://www.health.ri.gov/disease/carriers/bats/

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Related links

Department or agency: Department of Health

Online: http://www.health.ri.gov

Release date: 05-10-2013

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