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Tickborne and Mosquitoborne Disease Prevention

Tickborne Diseases

Ticks feed on blood from mammals (including humans). In order to feed, ticks wait on grass and other vegetation on the ground until the human or animal host walks by. Using their front legs, the ticks climb on to the host and feed. Although only a small percentage of these ticks are infected with disease causing bacteria, numerous tickborne illnesses including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia are reported each year.  These diseases are transmitted most commonly during the feeding process.

Please use the links below for additional information about selected tickborne diseases:

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Lyme DiseaseSouthern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI)
Heartland Virus

Mosquitoborne Diseases

Mosquitoborne diseases occur when a mosquito that is carrying a virus or a parasite bites a person and makes them sick. While there are many different types of mosquitoes in Oklahoma and worldwide, not all mosquitoes carry viruses or parasites that make people sick.

Several diseases transmitted by the bite of a mosquito include West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, LaCrosse encephalitis, and Western Equine encephalitis. Mosquitoes pick up the organism when they feed on infected animals. The organism is then transmitted to humans or animals while feeding.

Some mosquitoborne diseases are found in other parts of the world. Yellow fever is found in tropical South America as well as in sub-Saharan Africa. There is a vaccine that travelers may get to protect them from becoming sick. Dengue Fever is found in Africa, Southeast Asia, Western Pacific regions, Eastern Mediterranean, Latin America, and Caribbean.  Recently, Dengue Fever has also been reported in the Florida Keys and parts of southern Florida. Malaria is another mosquitoborne disease that is caused by a parasite that infects the blood. It is currently a problem in tropical or subtropical areas of Asia, Africa, Central and South America, parts of the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific. Travelers to these areas should talk with their doctors about taking prescription medication to prevent them from getting malaria.

Please use the links below for additional information about selected mosquitoborne diseases:

General Protective Measures

Be aware of peak exposure times and places. Exposure to mosquito and tick bites may be reduced by modifying patterns of activity or behavior. Although mosquitoes may bite at any time of day, peak biting activity for mosquitoes carrying some diseases (such as dengue and chikungunya) is during daylight hours. Mosquitoes carrying other diseases (such as malaria) are most active in twilight periods (dawn and dusk) or in the evening after dark. Avoiding the outdoors or focusing prevention activities during peak hours may reduce risk. Place also matters; ticks are often found in grasses and other vegetated areas.

Wear appropriate clothing. When weather permits, people can minimize areas of exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, boots, and hats. Tucking in shirts, tucking pants into socks, and wearing closed shoes instead of sandals may reduce risk. Insect repellents, such as permethrin, can be applied to clothing and gear for added protection.

Check for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, which even includes your back yard.  Prompt removal of attached ticks can prevent some infections.

Optimum protection can be provided by applying insect repellents to clothing and exposed skin. Products containing the following active ingredients typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection.

  • DEET
  • Picaridin (KBR 3023)
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD.  This recommendation refers to EPA-registered repellent products containing the active ingredient OLE (or PMD). “Pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil) is not the same product; it has not undergone similar, validated testing for safety and efficacy, is not registered with EPA as an insect repellent, and is not covered by this recommendation.
  • IR3535

Repellent efficacy. Published data indicate that repellent efficacy and duration of protection vary considerably among products and among mosquito species. Product efficacy and duration of protection are also markedly affected by ambient temperature, level of activity, amount of perspiration, exposure to water, abrasive removal, and other factors. In general, higher concentrations of active ingredient provide longer duration of protection, regardless of the active ingredient. Products with <10% active ingredient may offer only limited protection, often 1–2 hours. The concentration of different active ingredients cannot be directly compared (that is, 10% concentration of one product doesn’t mean it works exactly the same as 10% concentration of another product). Studies suggest that concentrations of DEET above approximately 50% do not offer a marked increase in protection time against mosquitoes. Regardless of what product is used, if people start to get insect bites they should reapply the repellent according to the label instructions, try a different product, or, if possible, leave the area with biting insects.  Also, choose a repellent that provides protection for the amount of time that you will be outdoors.  Search for a repellent that is right for you by clicking here.

Precautions that should be taken when using insect repellents.

  • Apply repellents only to exposed skin or clothing, as directed on the product label.
  • Do not use repellents under clothing.
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply repellents to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears.
  • When using sprays, do not spray directly on face—spray on hands first and then apply to face.
  • Do not spray in enclosed areas, avoid breathing a spray product, and do not use it near food.
  • Wash hands after application to avoid accidental exposure to eyes. Children should not handle repellents. Instead, adults should apply repellents to their own hands, and then gently spread on the child’s exposed skin. Avoid applying directly to children’s hands.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin or clothing. Heavy application and saturation are generally unnecessary for effectiveness. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, apply a bit more.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days.
  • Wash treated clothing before wearing it again. This precaution may vary with different repellents—check the product label.

Internal Resources:

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