Outdoor enthusiasts, be prepared.
In the ongoing effort to try to connect the dots on the effects of global climate change, a report just released from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) suggests global warming is contributing to an increase in deer tick and mosquito populations, in addition to a stronger, more potent strain of poison ivy and higher pollen counts. (See nwf.org)
Last week, the NWF facilitated a conference call with state media. Participants included Joe Wilkinson, past president of the Iowa Wildlife Federation, Frank Szollosi, NWF regional outreach, and Dr. Yogesh Shah, associate dean for global health at Des Moines University. The discussion came following the release of NWF’s report, entitled “Ticked Off: America’s Outdoor Experience and Climate Change,” which suggests a number of effects climate change will have on outdoor recreation.
“Climate change is bringing about stressful new changes to our outdoor world, and we need to take notice,” warns the report.

Everyone affected
Wilkinson said Iowa will not be immune to the problem.
“Climate change is not so subtle anymore. By now, everybody’s heard of it and it’s become a matter of what are we going o do about it and when,” said Wilkinson.
Shah cited the spike in Iowa cases of the West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne illness, over the past three years.
West Nile cases in Iowa are up 400 percent compared to previous years, from nine cases in 2011 to 44 cases in 2013, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
“The pure numbers are increasing, plus the viruses are living longer in each mosquito and tick also,” said Wilkinson.
In addition, the report says higher levels of carbon dioxide are leading to an increase in the density and toxicity of pollen and the toxicity of poison ivy.
Also, mild winters in parts of the U.S. mean temperatures aren’t getting cold enough to kill ticks during the winter months.

May get worse
Shah said it is likely the problem will get worse before it gets better and suggested in the near future the U.S. may be looking at other mosquito-borne illnesses Americans once considered “exotic.”
“Like Dengue or Chikungunya, both which cause fever and headaches,” said Shah.
“These will not be staying in just Africa and Asia.”

What to do
Nancy Sacquitne of Winneshiek County Public Health reminds the public when dealing with pests, the best defense is a good offense.
She suggests to protect themselves from being infected by ticks or mosquitoes, the public should take a number of precautions:
• Get rid of standing water by emptying out pools, bird baths, bottoms of flower pots and buckets
• Discard old tires and drill a hole in them to allow water to drain
• Eliminate tall weeds or grass – mosquitoes like the shade
• Use good-fitting screens on doors and windows
• Apply insect repellent containing DEET (not recommended for children under two months old) and remember to spray your clothing
• Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when spending time outdoors
• Try to avoid all bites.
The Centers for Disease Control makes additional recommendations, including:
• Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos and deodorants
• Tuck pants into socks or boots
• Remain still if a single insect is flying around
• If attacked, seek shaded areas or shelter

Taking a stand
In addition to protecting oneself, Ticked Off suggests a number of ways people can “take a stand” and help protect the planet and slow the effects of climate change.
These include reducing carbon pollution from the largest sources, investing in wildlife-friendly renewable energy and safeguarding wildlife by adopting climate-smart conservation practices.