Category Archives: Public health

Ticks and summertime






Everyone who agrees with this statement, raise your hands. “The world would be a better place without ticks!” Ha, just as I suspected! Everyone who has ever “gotten a tick” raised their hands. Everyone else has a blank look on their face. For the uninitiated, ticks are eight-legged arachnids more closely related to spiders than insects. While all tick species feed on blood, some feed on wild animals and rarely bite people.  Other ticks readily hitch rides on, and bite humans.  Ticks are most commonly encountered in fields or… Read More →




New infographic on biting and stinging pests






Every now and then we get the opportunity to get a little creative with a partner who shares some of our mission. This month our partner is the Methodist Health System, and MHS Publication Specialist, Sarah Cohen.  Sarah posed a challenge to a few of us subject matter experts, and her creative team, to come up with an infographic that would help inform you about the different kinds of pests in Texas that bite, sting and sometimes infect us. Here’s the final product and a link to the… Read More →




Bed bugs happen: Even in school






A message to all parents with kids in school:  Bed bugs happen. Bed bugs happen even in your children’s school, and like it or not we’re all going to have to deal with it. That will mean fighting the inclination to go into hyper-protective parent mode. Instead we all need to relax.  Deep breaths.  Eyes closed. Find your center.  Breeeathe… it will be all right. It doesn’t matter what kind of school our kids attend, there’s a good chance that sooner or later you’ll hear rumors of bed bugs on campus.  I… Read More →




Getting tested for Zika






So you and your significant other are considering whether to get pregnant; but the summer’s headlines about Zika virus and its effect on developing babies has you worried.  Or maybe you’ve just returned from traveling to an area where Zika is active.  You’ve not experienced symptoms of Zika, but you’ve been around others with the disease and you know that 4 out of 5 people who get Zika show no symptoms.  You wonder if you might be infectious to your spouse or partner (Zika can be sexually transmitted). In both cases a test… Read More →




New Zika publications






I was asked a few weeks ago if the collective “we” (meaning the whole state of Texas) were going to be ready for Zika.  My answer was a cautious, “I think so”.  If we’re not, it at least it won’t be for lack of trying. Zika is a much different disease than West Nile virus. It has different vectors, mosquitoes that prefer to feed on humans over any other animal (unlike WNV mosquitoes, which mostly feed on birds).  It is also very difficult to detect in wild mosquito populations.  The… Read More →




Quick fix for mosquitoes






This year my wife and I worked all spring to turn our backyard into a flowery paradise.  We installed drip irrigation, planted new plants (including a bunch of perennials for attracting bees and butterflies) and mulched everything against the coming drought of summer. Now that summer’s here, however, the mosquitoes have decided that since everything’s so nice, they want to be in charge.  In fact I believe every mosquito on the block knows about our backyard, making it difficult to go outside for even a few minutes without repellent. You… Read More →




First mosquito of the season






Before it’s old news, I wanted to make it official.  It’s Aedes (AID ees) season again in north Texas.  Last weekend I spotted my first Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquitoes) of the season.  So from now until November, get used to having these pesky mosquitoes around. Alex Wild, curator of the insect museum at the University of Texas in Austin (the OTHER Texas University) tweeted his first Aedes aegypti (yellow fever mosquito) of the season a month ago.  Since then I’ve been tempting my local backyard mosquito population with my succulent, winter-white legs… Read More →




Zika Virus: What you need to know






Last December I wrote about bracing for a new mosquito-borne disease called Zika.  Since then, evidence of a connection between Zika virus and two scary health conditions called Guillian-Barré syndrome and microcephaly has grown. Although there are still no known cases of Zika being acquired from mosquitoes locally, from within the U.S., there is a real possibility that Zika virus could reach Texas this summer.  If so, these issues will become as important to the average stay-at-home Texan, as it is to those folks who are willing to… Read More →




Lyme disease ticks in Texas






The good news is that the number of Lyme disease cases appears to be low and even declining in Texas.  The bad news is that the tick that carries Lyme disease is well established in Texas and its range appears to be expanding. Even though we don’t hear as much about it here in Texas, Lyme disease is the most common insect-transmitted disease in the U.S.–even more than west Nile virus.  Caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, and carried by infected black-legged ticks, Lyme can be a chronic… Read More →




Rodents in attics






There are few household maintenance issues as alarming or frustrating as hearing rodent footsteps in the ceiling or attic.  This happened to me earlier this year in my home, and recently my wife’s office has been hearing the pitter-patter of tiny feet above the ceiling tiles at their place of work. At my home the culprit turned out to be a squirrel that had loosened mortar on the roof/siding interface on my roof.  A 1/2 inch gap is all that a squirrel needs to get into an attic.  In my wife’s office… Read More →