Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Bugs, Bites & Stings

Mosquito's, ticks, snakes and spiders. Pesky insects are predicated to be plentiful this summer due to the unseasonably warm winter. Today's health and beauty buzz is on some of the creepy, crawly and flying pests that can make us ill.
                                               The Brown Recluse Spider: 
The beautiful home she stayed
in.                                                                                                                                 Her leg.
Vacationing in the Virgin Islands....What a glorious way to spend spring break unless of course, you are bitten by a brown recluse. My daughter had the misfortune to be bitten by one. Fortunately, (if you have to get bitten at all!) the spider bit her leg on the last night of her vacation in the Caribbean. It began to swell and become really painful on her flight back to college requiring treatment in the ER, including multiple drainages and 2 courses of antibiotics. The pain was extremely severe.
There are 20,000 species of spiders inhabiting America. Only 4 are known to be dangerous to humans. The brown recluse is one. The brown recluse is a small, yellowish/brown spider with a violin pattern on it's back. Most bites occur during the summer months. It's venom is extremely poisonous causing destruction of the tissue, leading to eventual death of the tissue in the skin surrounding the bite. Symptoms usually develop 2 to 8 hours after the bite.

                                         Symptoms include:

  • Severe pain and itching at the bite site.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fever and muscle pain.
Seek immediate treatment at your doctors office or hospital ER. There is no anti venom for the Brown Recluse. Treatment includes a tetanus shot, antibiotics, pain medication and antihistamines. Follow up is required as specified by your doctor so that any dead tissue can be removed and any secondary infection treated.

Lymes Disease
Lymes disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by a tick. Ticks are part of the spider family and feed by sucking blood. Lymes disease became apparent in 1975 when a group of children from Lyme, Connecticut were incorrectly diagnosed with "rheumatoid arthritis". This lead researchers to identify the bacterial cause of the children's condition. In 1982, this became known as Lymes Disease. 
Lyme disease initially affects the skin, causing an expanding reddish rash similar to a target or bull's-eye. 
 Certain ticks found on deer, harbor the bacterium in their stomachs. The tick transmits the bacteria when it bites the skin. Lymes disease is prevalent in the North East US, but there have been reports in all 50 states.
In the early phase of Lymes disease(3 to 30 days after a tick bite) a rash develops at the site of the bite. The rash gradually expands and part of the rash may clear as it expands resulting in a  "bulls eye" appearance which is very distinctive. One in four people do not develop a rash. Symptoms are flu like such as muscle and joint aches, headache, swollen glands and fatigue.
Later stages of Lymes disease are very serious affecting the heart and nervous system. There is swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints and paralysis may occur.
Blood tests for lymes disease are generally helpful when the patient has symptoms associated with lymes disease. Should you suspect that you have been bitten by a tick carrying Lymes disease, go immediately to your doctor.  Lymes disease is treated with antibiotics.

The Tiger Mosquito
The tiger mosquito was introduced to N. America from Asia. It is believed that the species was brought in on used tires which the US imports from Asia for remanufacting. The tires are used for egg deposits and larvae development by the mosquito's.
The tiger mosquito carries a number of viral diseases including Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus and encephalitis. In 2001, tiger mosquito's tested positive for west Nile virus in Maryland.
The tiger mosquito is responsible for causing heartworm disease in dogs. Heart worm is difficult to treat but left untreated, will result in the death of the dog. There are preventative medications for heartworm in dogs which are given on a monthly basis.
 West Nile Virus is a deadly disease that affects both humans and horses. The Maryland Agricultural Department urges horse owners to vaccinate their horses against West Nile virus as well as against the 3 types of encephalitis carried by mosquito's.There have been 215 human West Nile virus cases reported in Maryland and 20 deaths. There is currently no vaccine against West Nile virus for human use.

      The Copperhead
Photo of coiled Northern Copperhead courtesy of John WhiteSnakes
Photo of coiled Timber Rattlesnake courtesy of Ed Thompson
Timber rattlesnake
There are 27 species of snakes in Maryland, but only 2 are venomous. The copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. Snakes are amongst the most feared and hated creatures but they serve as a  valuable contribution to the environment and should be left alone. Poison control reports 2 to 6 snake bites a year in Maryland from poisonous snakes. Contact your doctor or local ER immediately should you be bitten by a snake.
Steps to be taken if bitten by a poisonous snake according to the Red Cross:
  • Do wash the bite with soap and water.
  • Do immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.
  • Do seek immediate medical help.
  • Do NOT use ice or any other type of cooling on the bite. Research has shown this to be harmful.
  • Do NOT use tourniquets. The cutting off of the blood flow may result in the loss of a limb.
  • Do NOT make any incisions to the wound. This has not proven useful and may cause further injury.
Have a happy and healthy bug free summer.

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