The summer heat has arrived! Although COVID-19 awareness and prevention continues to be a top priority, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) wants to remind Missourians to also take simple steps to prevent illnesses that are spread by ticks and mosquitoes when they spend time outdoors.

“Missouri is a beautiful state, home to gorgeous parks, fantastic hiking trails, national forest lands, pretty lakes, and unfortunately ticks and mosquitoes,” said Dr. Randall Williams, DHSS Director.

DHSS receives reports of illness caused by tick and mosquito bites throughout the year, including winter months, though reports are more frequent during the warm weather months. Illnesses that may result from tick and mosquito bites can range from mild to severe and, in some cases, can even be fatal.

“Symptoms of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases typically begin within two weeks of a bite and include flu-like symptoms such as a sudden fever, body aches, and headache,” said Williams.

The two main tick-borne diseases reported in Missouri residents are ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, followed by tularemia and Lyme disease. A small number of Heartland virus and Bourbon virus cases have also been reported in recent years. In 2019, Missouri reported a combined total of 976 cases of tick-borne disease.

West Nile virus is the most common illness spread by mosquitoes in Missouri and other parts of the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 80% of people infected with West Nile virus will not develop any symptoms. In 2019, Missouri reported 5 cases of West Nile virus. This was a low number of reported cases for Missouri, below the five year average of approximately 20 cases per year.