Category Archives: Public health

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 →

Bracing for ZIKA

Will Zika be the next mosquito-borne disease to capture headlines in 2016?  Or will it be the little disease that few (at least in the U.S.) have heard of?  That’s the question being debated by public health officials this year. For many years it seemed like new things happened relatively slowly in public health in Texas. In the mid 1980s entomologists reported the Asian tiger mosquito in Texas for the first time–a daytime-flying mosquito from Japan that is not shy about biting humans. Then in 2002 the first cases of west Nile virus… Read More →

Kissing bug identification requires closer look

Because most of us take little time to look closely at insects, it should not be surprising that recent television stories about “kissing bugs” and Chagas disease have created a frenzy of sorts among people thinking they have captured or seen kissing bugs around the home.  While a few of these have turned out to be actual kissing bugs (genus Triatoma), most are not; and laboratories set up to identify and test kissing bugs have been overwhelmed this month with samples. But not all insects vaguely resembling the pictures you… Read More →

Oak leaf itch mite confirmed in Oklahoma

In the latest issue of Pest Alerts from the Entomology Department at Oklahoma State University, entomologist Justin Talley reports finding evidence of a biting pest that has not been seen in Oklahoma or Texas for over ten years. The oak leaf itch mite, Pyemotes herfsi, is cousin to the straw itch mite–a predatory mite often associated with stored grain and stored grain insects, and known to bite people who come in contact with infested grain.  It was first reported in the U.S. from Kansas in 2004, a year… Read More →

Tougher head lice in schools this year

Sending your children off to the first day of school comes with plenty of concerns.  Will they enjoy their new teachers?  Will they make good friends?  But one concern often overlooked in the rush of the new school year is head lice. Now the last thing anyone should stress over when it comes to schools is head lice.  But with a new school year, reports of head lice always go up.  And according to a new paper delivered at the American Chemical Society and reported this week in Smithsonian.com, this year’s head… Read More →

Mosquito threat highest Now

In 2012 Dallas was the national epicenter of a West Nile epidemic.  A mild winter and very hot summer combined to make conditions that resulted in approximately 400 reported cases and 19 deaths in Dallas county alone.  While 2015 has not approached the mosquito numbers or disease transmission potential of 2012, this year’s data suggests that risk for getting a WNV infection from a mosquito is peaking higher than any time since then. Traditionally the potential for WNV transmission peaks in August and this year looks like no… Read More →

Mosquito news release out today

Probably most of you don’t need to be told mosquitoes are bad right now and it has to do with rain.  But Texas A&M AgriLife Extension just posted a news release on the subject that might shine some light on why, and what you can do.  Check it out at http://today.agrilife.org/2015/05/28/texans-expect-mosquito-explosion/ 

Time for repellents

Yesterday the Texas Department of State Health Services announced the first 2015 case of West Nile virus in Texas.  Coincidentally, Dallas County Health and Human Services issued a health advisory reported the first positive mosquito pool of the year was collected Wednesday. And to add insult to injury, this week my wife and I both got our first chigger bites of the year. All of this is a good reminder that summer is around the corner, and that insect repellent is our best defense against the less savory… Read More →