The Pulse
5:23 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

When Summer Makes You Sick

Or, rather, summer activities, like swimming, or hiking through the woods.

To wit:

  • So far, 45 people have come down with bloody diarrhea after swimming in a lake in Burrillville, RI. Several needed hospitalizing, including some children.
  • And just a couple of years ago, a young man just happened to get bitten by the one mosquito carrying eastern equine encephalitis in Rhode Island (tests for EEE in mosquitoes have all turned up negative so far this year in RI, by the way) and, were it not for some early, aggressive treatment from doctors at Rhode Island Hospital, would have died or had serious brain damage. We'll have that story up on our web site shortly.
  • Lyme disease is always a threat for those who spend time outdoors in Rhode Island. But so are babesiosis and the newly identified infection from the B. miyamotoi bacteria.

Those are a few pretty gnarly examples of how, when the world heats up and we head outside, bugs that can wreak a lot of havoc stir to life and (sometimes) find us.

So, should you avoid going outdoors? Absolutely not. Can you protect yourself from these illnesses? Mostly, yes. To avoid swimming-related illnesses, you can avoid swimming. Or, you can take comfort in the fact that most bugs you might pick up in a lake probably won't kill you. And you can be part of the solution by always picking up pet waste and ensuring you change diapers on little swimmers.

To keep from getting bitten by mosquitoes and ticks you can spray yourself and your clothes with repellant. And you can avoid areas they happen to love: for mosquitoes, swampy areas, woods; and for ticks, the brushy edges of lawns and forests, forest fragments. Luckily, eastern equine encephalitis is very rare. But as the climate warms up, mosquito and other vector-borne (e.g., bugs) diseases might spread north and become more common.