For several weeks now people have been posting photos of mysterious bug bites online, wondering what the source of the bites is.

There have been people surmising that the bites are coming from the Oak Leaf Itch Mite, but according to the Fairfax County Health Department it’s only a suspected cause at this time. The mite is an arachnid that is invisible to the naked eye.

“We have recently received reports of possible bug bites of unknown origin,” said Joshua Smith, Environmental Health Supervisor of the Disease Carrying Insect Program at the Fairfax County Health Department. “Although we are not certain what may be causing these bites, one of the suspected causes is the microscopic Oak Leaf Itch Mite. This mite has been presumptively associated with itchy bites in other regions of the U.S.. It’s potential presence this year could be due to the periodical cicada emergence from earlier this year—the mites may be feeding on the cicada eggs that have been laid in trees. In places where this mite has been reported as a probable nuisance, it’s often seen during the summer and into the fall.”

 Smith suggested by taking the following steps to prevent mosquito and tick bites when spending time outdoors that residents may also be able to prevent bites of other insects such as the Oak Leaf Itch Mite:

  Use repellent to prevent bites (be sure to read and follow label instructions when applying repellents): EPA-registered, CDC-recommended active ingredients in repellents are DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), Para-Menthane-Diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone

 Dress to minimize exposure: Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when spending time outdoors

 Shower after outdoor activities (wash away crawling ticks and do a tick check)

 Launder clothes worn for outdoor activities (ten minutes in the dryer on high heat will kill ticks on clothing)

 Smith also recommended avoiding scratching of the bites. “A cold compress or products available to relieve the itchiness may help—talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have questions about these products,” he said. “If you are concerned about how you are reacting to potential bug bites, think you may have a skin infection (maybe skin broken from itching too much), or have any other medical questions or concerns, please consult your healthcare provider.”

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