Saturday, June 10, 2017

Watch Out For Deer Ticks: Reduce Chance Of Lyme Disease

The loathsome deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick, is defined more by the disease it spreads than by its own characteristics. Deer ticks, a name that came about due to its habit of parasitizing white-tailed deer, are transmitters or vectors for Lyme disease microbes that they acquire by feeding on infected mice and rodents. Lyme disease, if untreated can cause a variety of health issues including facial paralysis, heart palpitations, arthritis, severe headaches, and neurological disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is currently one of the fastest-growing and most commonly reported vector-borne diseases in the United States. More than 14,000 cases are reported annually, but because the symptoms so closely resemble the flu and usually go away without treatment, scientists estimate as many as nine out of every ten cases go unreported.

Deer ticks are small and easy to miss especially if they attached themselves to a hairy pet or somewhere hard to reach or see on a human such as the top of your head or back. They are commonly found in tall grass and wooded areas inhibited by large animals, such as deer.
To minimize your interactions with ticks, move children’s play area away from wooded areas and place on wood chips or sand, place mulch in planting beds around your house, trim branches and shrubs to let in light and air, fence off ornamental plant and vegetable gardens to reduce interactions with deer carrying ticks and avoid creating conditions that ticks favor such as ground covers, leaf litter, and dark humid, places.

To avoid ticks, stay in the middle of the trail while hiking and stay out of wooded and tall grassy areas when possible. Before you head out, dress in pants and a long sleeve shirt and consider tucking your pants into your socks. Also, use a tick repellant containing DEET and for prolonged outdoor activities such as camping, look for clothing and camping gear that is treated with permethrin, while always reading and following manufacturer’s directions and warning labels.

Upon returning from hiking, camping or other outdoor activities, remove clothes that were worn outside since ticks can be carried on them, be sure to do a thorough tick check from head to toe, and consider showering to reduce the risk of tick borne diseases. If you find a tick on you, be sure to remove it with tweezers using a slow, steady pull so that you don’t leave any mouthparts in your skin. Flush the tick down the toilet or tightly wrap it in a tissue or piece of tape and dispose of it in a closed garbage can. If you suspect a tick bite, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Photo: Female Deer Tick, courtesy Agricultural Research Service.

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9 Responses

  1. LeRoy Hogan Jr. says:

    Thanks April for the article and cool you’re into farming.

  2. Worth says:

    This article should be expanded. There is lots more info on the subject of ticks and especially prevention of Lyme. For instance:
    Permethrin treated clothing is very effective. Clothing can be purchased already treated, or items you already own can be sprayed. Commercially treated clothes like LL Bean’s NoFlyZone pants are good for 70 washings before losing their effectiveness. Home-sprayed items are good for 6 washings before needing to be re-treated.
    Removing ticks with a steady pull is good advice, but often they DO leave the mouthparts behind. This is not harmful and will eventually grow out as the layers of skin grow.
    Even if the mouthparts are not left behind, the strong pull necessary to remove the tick often leaves significant tissue damage. This can be red with a brown center, but is not to be confused with the bullseye rash – it does not indicate Lyme disease.
    Most of the commercially available tick removal devices are ineffective. The only thing the works is a pair of strong tweezers with very fine points.
    Seeking medical attention is likely a waste of time. Doctors used to give a dose of antibiotics immediately, but now they don’t do so unless the tick has been attached to you for 24 hours or more.

    • Boreas says:

      I guess my question to my doctor would be, “How do I really know how long it was attached?” I have heard conflicting statements – more so recently – that one can be infected by a tick much sooner than 24 hours. Typically it was thought that you were safe until the tick begins “feeding”. Kinda hard to tell exactly when that happens. It has also been said that the removing of the tick using virtually any method increases the risk of retrograde fluid transfer from the tick to the host. Seems to me if you pull the tick and mouthparts are verified as being left behind (by inspection of the tick under magnification), then one should assume infection until proven otherwise.

      Also, not everyone shows (or notices) the “typical” bull’s eye rash and symptoms of primary Lyme infection. These individuals may have no signs/symptoms until the infection is much further along.

  3. Walt says:

    Consumer Reports rated their best 20% Picaridin product higher than the best 30% DEET product, and 30% Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus in third place after those two. Having tried all three, I find the 20% Picaridin much nicer to use — almost no odor, not slimy, barely detectable on the skin. I found the oil of lemon eucalyptus slimy-icky and malodorous. (“Lemon Eucalyptus” is a particular tree. It’s not “oil of lemon” and eucalyptus oil.) I guess everybody knows DEET is oily, smelly and damaging to some plastics. See the CR report for which brands they tested. Note that the % active ingredient is very important.

    Re: Permethrin treated clothing. In addition to buying pre-treated clothing, you can treat things yourself. The makers say the treatment will last through 6 washings (gentle cycle or hand wash, line dry). There are pump spray bottles that can treat several items, but it’s much less expensive to get a quart of concentrate that can make several gallons to dip many items. Odorless on treated items. The product is also suitable for treating gear, tents, etc. The ready-mixed spray bottle is 0.5% Permethrin. The concentrate is 10%, and you dilute it down.

    The concentrate is an agricultural product for animal areas, dogs, and lawns. The bottle does not give clothing treatment instructions. To get it from 10% to 0.5% you can do the math or just see … 19 parts water to 1 part concentrate.

    I’d avoid mentioning brand names, but it seems all the best articles recommend Martin’s for the 10% concentrate and Sawyer for the 0.5% spray. So I bought those. Please reply if you know of equally good or better brands.

    I’ve seen the 0.5% Permethrin spray at local sporting goods stores.

    I have no connection whatsoever with any maker or seller of any of these products, except as a consumer.

  4. Mark says:

    It’s not just Lyme disease that is spread by ticks. A few weeks ago a buddy and I were mountain biking at Downerville State Forest in St. Lawrence County. When we finished the ride he noticed a tick attached to his knee. He removed it and watched for the rash, etc., but since it was only attached for no more than an hour he wasn’t that concerned. About a week later he is complaining of flu like symptoms. Long story short, he had a fever of 105 and I took him to the local emergency room. He was hospitalized for 4 days, with intravenous antibiotics pumped into him the entire time. He was diagnosed with anaplasmosis. The doctor said the bacteria can be transmitted FIFTEEN MINUTES after the bite! While he was very sick, he was a healthy adult male. I can’t imagine how a child or elderly person would be affected. So keep in mind there are other serious diseases being transmitted much sooner than Lyme.

  5. Paul says:

    “They are commonly found in tall grass” True – but they are even more common on mice than on deer – their favorite animal to hitch a ride. You can find ticks anywhere.

  6. Charklie S says:

    I was down on my brothers farm in Ulster Heights one recent year. Ticks are a problem and aplenty on his land so he does not go in his fields during tick season.Down the center of his long dirt drive on summer days is tall grass (a foot high or so and less.) A few years ago when I was down visiting I walked in one of the wheel ruts alongside those foot-high blades and intently kept an eye out for ticks, sought them out. Sure enough I saw one on the very top of a blade with its little parasitic legs stretched out waiting for a moving target to come along. That’s what they do…they climb to a high position and outstretch themselves. Curious me saw this firsthand which I had found very interesting.

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