Effectiveness of insecticide-treated clothing to prevent tick and mosquito exposure in foresters and loggers in western North Carolina

Outdoor workers in the forestry and logging industries often face occupational health hazards such as insect bites and the extent to which exposures are linked to vector borne disease is not fully understood. These workers are exposed to potential pathogen vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks in wooded habitats. In North Carolina (NC), ticks and mosquitoes are known to transmit pathogens that cause diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever (tick), Lyme Disease (tick), West Nile fever (mosquito), and Eastern equine encephalitis (mosquito). While spray- and/or lotion-based repellants can be applied directly to skin and/or clothing, repellant/insecticide-treated clothing is also available. The primary objective of this study is to assess risk and develop actionable prevention/intervention strategies aimed at mitigating exposure to biological hazards. The following specific aims will be pursued: 1) Characterize the exposure risk of foresters/loggers to mosquito and tick bites, and 2) Assess the effectiveness of repellant/insecticide-treated clothing for the prevention of mosquito and tick bites. Exposure risk will be characterized, in part, based on occurrence and abundance of species known to blood feed on and transmit pathogens to humans. Our hypothesis for Aim 1 is that there is a significant difference in mosquito and tick abundance between work sites and seasons in western NC. Our hypothesis for Aim 2 is that there is a significant difference in mosquito/tick bites/exposures between loggers/foresters wearing treated clothing and workers wearing non-treated clothing in western NC. Ticks and mosquitoes will be collected at study sites, identified to species, and frozen for future pathogen analysis. Participants will receive instructions about reporting exposure and be asked to submit personal work uniforms to be professionally treated with insecticide/repellant. We expect our findings to benefit both worker health and stakeholder interests. This approach will provide baseline information on occupational exposure to biological hazards in western NC, and data necessary for large-scale studies mitigating the effects of these hazards.