Q: Can Bugs in Virginia Carry Diseases? A: Yes!

The short answer is: Yes. The longer answer is: Some insects can carry some diseases some of the time. There are many things you can do, however, to help prevent bug bites that could lead to disease or infection. Start with insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing while you’re outside. Don’t forget to spray your shoes, hats, and camping or hiking gear too! Wear loose-fitting long sleeve shirts and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks to avoid ticks while on hikes. Take care of any areas with standing water in your yard and around your house which serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Use screens on your windows to keep bugs out and utilize a pest control service like PestNow of Central Virginia if you do notice bugs are getting inside. Let’s take a look at some of the commonly found bugs in Virginia, and why you should watch out for them.

Person spraying insect repellent on pants and boots to protect against ticks and mosquitoes.

Bed Bugs

It’s not very common for bed bugs to spread disease in the areas that they’re infesting, but they surely can be a pretty big annoyance. When they’re around and they come into contact with you, they can make you feel very itchy and even pose a risk of infection if you’re scratching too hard. Bed bugs have become a public health concern because of their ability to hide in areas where you sleep, whether it be in your own home or a hotel. Bed bugs have even been found in other areas like movie theaters. It’s easy to bring them home with you, creating an inconvenient situation that you have to deal with. Though you might not get a disease from a bed bug, there are other insects in VA that do carry diseases that can infect your blood cells and specific parts of the body.

Chagas (Kissing Bugs)

Also known as the kissing bug, chagas can carry a parasite in their fecal matter called Trypanosoma cruzi. Chagas disease is an inflammatory condition caused when an infected bug defecates after feeding on you and leaving behind parasites on your skin. The parasites can then enter your body through your eyes, mouth, a cut or scratch, or the wound from the bug’s bite. If left untreated, it becomes more and more difficult to rid your body of the parasite, and your condition becomes a long term issue. Symptoms usually come on very quickly once you have become infected. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, but usually include things like fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, body aches, rash, loss of appetite and swollen gland. More serious symptoms can include heart and digestive issues.

Woman laying down with a cold cloth on her forehead and a thermometer in her mouth

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Did you know that Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in Virginia? Ticks don’t discriminate, so ticks bites can infect any person of any age. However, it’s more common for young people under the age of 16 to get bit by a tick because they tend to be more active outside in areas where ticks are commonly found. People frequently pick up ticks in areas like the woods or in a backyard. They’ll climb right up on your body and their bite is actually something that results in them embedding their head into your skin.

If you do find a tick on your body, you’ll want to stop and assess the situation. If you were to immediately rip the tick off and leave the head embedded in your body, this puts you at a higher risk of developing Lyme disease and an infection. The tick must be removed with the head still intact. If you see that the tick is in motion and crawling on your skin, it’s safe to move it off your body. To remove one that has latched on, get some tweezers and rubbing alcohol (soap and water is fine too.) Clean the area first, then get the tweezers right onto your skin so you can get as close to the tick’s head as possible, and then pull straight up-slowly. Once the tick has been removed, clean the area on your skin again and dispose of that tick. You can either drown it in the rubbing alcohol or soapy water, or flush it down the toilet. Don’t just throw it away though, it will crawl right out of the trash can!

Tick insect warning sign in infected forest. Lyme disease and meningitis transmitter.

Mosquitos and West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is the most common mosquito-borne infection that occurs in Virginia, and it most frequently occurs during the mid-summer months when mosquitoes are very active. Symptoms can include a mild fever, headache, aches all over the body, vomiting and diarrhea. It’s uncommon to experience severe West Nile virus, but it’s not unheard of. In those situations, symptoms will become more severe and may also include a stiff neck, muscle weakness, disorientation and confusion.

West Nile virus most commonly comes from the bite of a mosquito. Mosquitoes get the virus from biting infected birds. There are over 60 different species of mosquitoes that are native to Virginia, but there are only about five that transmit this virus.

Mosquitoes and Malaria

Your risk of getting malaria from an infected mosquito in Virginia is pretty low, but it’s not completely impossible if the mosquito has managed to transport itself to the area and is infected with one of the four forms of a parasite called Plasmodium. These four types include P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae and produce symptoms such as anemia, kidney failure, respiratory failure, coma and even death. After being bitten by an infected mosquito, you’ll likely develop symptoms within seven to 10 days. There are strains that could take up to 10 months to produce symptoms.

Woman’s arm with multiple mosquito bites

PestNow of Central Virginia is a veteran-owned and operated local business offering professional pest-control services throughout the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Northern Neck areas. If you suspect that you have a problem with bed bugs, ticks, mosquitoes, or other pests that could pose a risk with different pest borne diseases, please reach out to us. With PestNow CVA, you get the best of both worlds: The support of the nationwide PestNow organization and the personalized service, individual attention and professional expertise of the local Virginians who own and operate our three locations.