HUDSON—The Covid-19 pandemic may be grabbing the headlines but the usual summertime scourges have not disappeared.
People are spending more time at home recreating in the backyard or outdoors in other places like parks, beaches or woodland trails.
While staying away from crowds may keep someone safe from the coronavirus—ticks, mosquitos and rabid creatures like to hang out with Mother Nature too.
In a phone interview with Columbia County Director for Public Health Ed Coons this week, the health department veteran said the number of cases of tick-borne diseases is just a little bit lower than last year at this time.
His department has documented 58 cases of anaplasmosis, 3 cases of babesiosis and 50 new cases of Lyme disease so far this year.
The health department is proactive about getting the word out by supplying and seeing that signs are displayed on public hiking trails warning people about the potential for tick bites, the need to wear repellent and to check themselves for ticks at the end of the day .
It was a particularly “bad spring,” with a bountiful tick population following a mild winter, but the drought seems to have slowed things down somewhat, said Mr. Coons.
He noted that a colleague of his had been out the previous day inspecting a camp. Though she had stayed mostly on pavement and dry roads, she brought him a tick that she found on her ankle to identify. It was a larvae stage deer tick, not usually found on pavement, “It must have been hungry—going where the food is,” he said.
‘We all need to be aware of what’s going on and maintain vigilance.’
Chairman Matt Murell (R-Stockport)
Columbia County Board of Supervisors
Mosquitos are also hungry, though the drought again has kept their numbers at bay. But during the last heavy rainstorm they had “a good hatch,” said Mr. Coons.
These “ankle biting” mosquitos lay their eggs in woodland flood pools, among other wet places, and when the pools fill up with rain, the eggs hatch and become adults. When the pools dry up they have no place to live, Mr. Coons explained.
Mosquitos carry West Nile virus, which is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Mr. Coons said these mosquitoes typically breed in containers like water buckets and are found mostly in cities.
He did note some recent cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis cropping up in Massachusetts. “Triple E” is also a mosquito-borne disease and cases are not usually seen until sometime in August, he noted.
“EEE virus is a rare cause of brain infections (encephalitis). Only a few cases are reported in the United States each year. Approximately 30% of people with EEE die and many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems,” according to the Centers for Disease Control website www.cdc.gov/easternequineencephalitis/index.html
When it comes to rabies, Mr. Coons said, “I have a message for your readers: If you find a bat in your sleeping quarters—capture it or contain it, do not let it go or destroy it.”
Mr. Coons said about 15 people have had to undergo rabies vaccine injections because they found a bat in their bedroom, but then killed it or let it go. One case involved a baby, he said.
Once the bat is contained, call the health department, which needs a live animal for testing.
“Ninety-six percent of bats test negative for rabies,” but without a live specimen, the health department has to assume the animal was positive and treat people accordingly, said Mr. Coons.
So far this year, the department has had 6 or 7 raccoons test positive for rabies and one skunk. Several animals: dogs, a cow and a goat are currently under quarantine because they had contact with a rabid animal.
A person exposed to rabies is first treated in an emergency room and must undergo 4 vaccine injections over 14 days. The first shot is given intramuscularly in the arm, the others administered by the health department are dosed by weight and if there is a bite sight are injected around it. If there is no bite the shots are to the gluteus maximus.
In addition to being aware of the potential hazards of summer, Mr. Coons advises, “Wear a mask, social distance and be safe.”
Not to be ignored, the coronavirus is now being used to perpetrate scams on Columbia County residents, Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said in the county-issued coronavirus update press release, July 22, 2020
“We all need to be aware of what’s going on and maintain vigilance. I think most of you know how convincing scam artists can be when trying to separate you from your money. Scammers love times of uncertainty, when people are unsure of circumstances and are worried for their health and safety,” he said.
In one recent telephone call received by a county resident, the resident was told that someone with whom they recently came in close proximity had tested positive for Covid-19. They were told to self-isolate for seven days and take a Covid-19 test. Upon hearing this, the resident asked the caller to identify the infected person. Of course, that request was denied, with the scammer citing confidentiality.
The caller then said the resident required testing within 72 hours, and requested a mailing address to send the testing kit. Then a credit card was requested for the $50 kit charge. At that point, the resident recognized the call for what it was and hung up.
“This is just one example of the approach a scammer can take when trying to take advantage of someone who’s uncertain of the truthfulness of what they’re being told. Don’t take a chance. There’s an easy way to check on this by calling the county Department of Health (DOH). If you have indeed come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, the DOH can assist you,” said Chairman Murell.
The telephone number for the county DOH is 518-828-3358.
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