New Hampshire Reports On Vector-Borne Disease Survey

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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At the request of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NH DHHS), the University of New Hampshire Survey Center included 12 questions about knowledge, attitudes, and practices around vector-borne diseases in their recent Granite State Poll. The questions were provided in an attempt to better understand people's knowledge and behaviors around this important issue. A report with the findings was released by DHHS and is available at www.dhhs.nh.gov.

"The results weren't necessarily surprising," said Dr. Jose Montero, Director of Public Health Services at DHHS, "but they will help us improve our education efforts around vector-borne diseases in New Hampshire."

Some of the results were that the vast majority of those surveyed had heard of Lyme disease, Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), and West Nile virus (WNV) and correctly identified how they are spread. Despite this high level of awareness, the percentage of individuals who practice the various prevention methods varies widely. A small percentage (7-9%) of those interviewed indicated that during the past year they always followed all of the recommended tick-borne or mosquito-borne illness prevention measures. An equally small number (4-6%) never followed any of the prevention measures. Thus, the vast majority of New Hampshire residents are somewhere in between.

"Interestingly the percentage of individuals who use the various protection methods does not appear to differ by region of the State," said Montero, "even though the risk is very different among regions. This is good because the message is getting everywhere, but we want to make sure that those at higher risk are always taking precautions. Of the people who never use repellent, 22% said it was because of concern about negative health effects and we need to do a better job reassuring people of the safety of approved repellents when they are used properly. Our best chance at reducing risk includes being diligent in our practices and using multiple methods to prevent mosquito and tick bites and the diseases they cause. Changing behaviors is never easy, but these steps are the cornerstone of protecting ourselves from these diseases."

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The best ways to protect yourself from Lyme disease, EEE, and WNV are to:

* Wear insect repellent according to manufacturer's directions when you are outside and mosquitoes are biting; products that contain greater that 20% DEET will also protect you from tick bites

* Wear long pants, sleeves, and socks whenever possible outside

* Do a tick check and remove any ticks when you come back inside; wear light colored clothing when possible to make ticks easier to see

* Remove standing water (such as in bird baths and old tires) because mosquitoes lay their eggs there

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