Thursday, May 20, 2004

Be afraid of these bugs

The idea of 5 billion cicadas swarming Greater Cincinnati is not a pretty one. But periodic cicadas show up every 13 or 17 years and they're harmless. However, here are five "everyday" bugs that can hurt you:

Mosquitoes: They bite. They buzz. And some spread diseases. In Ohio, officials track West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis and LaCross encephalitis, says Robert Restifo, chief of the vector-bourne disease program for the Ohio Department of Health.

Bees, wasps, hornets: Roughly 2 million Americans are allergic to stings from bees and other stinging insects, and half a million people go to emergency rooms every year with stings. Allergic reactions to insect stings kill from 40 to 150 Americans a year.

Ticks: Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are the two tick-bourne diseases tracked in this region. Last year, the first human case of ehrlichiosis - a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection spread by ticks - was reported in Ohio.

Spiders: Out of more than 600 species of spiders in Ohio, only two - the black widow and the brown recluse - are venomous. Luckily, both are extremely rare in the region. "I'd been in the business for probably 25 years before I saw a recluse bite," the Ohio Health Department's Robert Restifo says.

Roaches: They spread germs and aggravate asthma - one of the reasons it is so prevalent among city children, says Dr. Amal Assa'ad, allergist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. It's hard to get rid of roaches, so once they're in a building, they're staying.

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