Over the last few months, we have discussed the potential dangers of tick-born diseases and viruses due to tick bites. Today, we will be discussing methods you can take to protect yourself and your family from these medical events caused by ticks. Spring, summer and fall are peak tick season, so follow these guidelines put out by pest experts and the scientists at the Centers for Disease Control to protect yourself against the hazards of a tick bite.
Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care for treatment options for your lawn and property area from ticks. Our professionals can help you choose an option that is right for your family and pets.
Check – Check yourself and your family members for ticks EVERY DAY. Here are some warm hidden places that ticks like to take hold. Here’s where to look:
- Inside and behind the ears
- Along your hairline
- Back of your neck
- Behind your knees
- Between your toes
Be Smart about your Surroundings and Dress Wisely – If you are going out for a hike or nature walk, stick to paths and try not to rub up against trees, bushes or sit in tall grass. The transfer of a tick can happen fast in these areas. If you are going out, dress smart. Wear long sleeves and pants. Tuck your pants into your socks.
Use Repellent – Repellents that contain DEET can be used on your exposed skin. Permethrin is a product that can be used on your clothes. Always follow the product instructions and use repellents with no more than 30-35% DEET on adults and 10-15% DEET on children. Never use insect repellents on infants.
Remove Ticks and Keep an Eye on the Spot – If you should find a tick remove it completely, including the head from your skin. Circle the area with a pen and watch to see if a rash or bullseye develop. Talk to your doctor about what should be done next if your suspect you have any tick-born disease.
Ticks are most active during the warm months of April through September. That means that we are currently in peak tick season. Short of staying indoors and missing all the outdoor entertaining and activities, what can you do to prevent tick bites and protect yourself from tick born illnesses?
- Pro-Tech Lawn Care Tick Protection Program – Our Tick Protection Program is an effective way to help protect you, your family and your pets from the spread of Lyme disease and other diseases associated with these pests. Our program includes three targeted applications to your property throughout the course of the season. Tick treatments can begin as soon as the snow melts and applications can continue through the end of the fall.
- Avoid Direct Contact with areas that are Tick Infested – Obviously avoiding the outdoors is not possible but if you are hiking or playing outside, stay away from wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. If you do go for hikes try to walk in the center of trails.
- Use Repellent – Use spray repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing.
- Dress Appropriately – If you know you will be in a high tick area, wear clothing that can offer you some level of protection. Long sleeves, long pants and sneakers are a good choice. Tuck your socks into your pants so that there is no access to your skin if you are walking through a grassy area.
- Removal – If you do spot a tick on your skin remove it completely or if you notice a bullseye marking or a rash contact your doctor immediately. Be sure to complete a thorough examination each time after being outdoors to check for the presence of ticks.
Powassan (POW) virus disease is a rare, but often serious disease that is caused by a virus spread by infected ticks. Over the past decade approximately 75 cases of POW virus disease were reported in the United States. While this number may seem small compared to other tick-borne or mosquito-born diseases, Powassan seems to be spreading along the eastern coast at an alarming rate. Here are some of what the latest research shows.
- The (POW) virus is transmitted to humans by infected ticks.
- Most cases have occurred in the Northeast and Great Lakes region.
- Signs and symptoms of infection can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. Long-term neurologic problems may occur.
- Unlike Lyme disease, which tends to be transmitted most frequently in the summertime, Powassan is most often diagnosed from March to April, and October to December.
- Powassan can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.
- The real scary thing about the Powassan virus is that unlike Lyme disease, which can be transmitted in 24-48 hours, laboratory studies indicate that Powassan virus is probably transmitted in under an hour.
- There is no specific medicine to cure or treat POW virus disease. Treatment for severe illnesses may include hospitalization, respiratory support, and intravenous fluids.
- Reducing your chances of tick bites is a preventative action including: avoiding contact with ticks by avoiding wooded and bushy areas with high grass; finding and removing ticks immediately before they have a chance to bite; and applying insect repellents to bare skin, according to label instructions.
Every year the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns Americans about potential dangers of tick borne diseases including notable diseases such as anaplasmosis, babeiosos, ehrlichiosis and Lyme Disease. If you haven’t heard of these diseases, consider yourself lucky. Tick borne illnesses are caused by infections with a variety of pathogens, including rickettsia and other types of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. One tick bite can give people more than one tick-borne disease; this is called a co-infection.
The National Institute for Health and the Centers for Disease Control study and keep statistics on vector borne diseases such as tick and mosquito diseases. They have reported some new trends in this grouping of diseases over the past few decades. Some of their findings include the following statistics and research findings.
- Over the past 20 years there has been a steady increase in the report and transmissions of the four main tick borne diseases mentioned above.
- Lyme Disease continues to be the most prevalent of the four with over 33 thousand cases reported annually. Anaplasmosis ranks second at almost 3 thousand cases while babeiosos and ehrlichiosis come in third and fourth with just over a thousand cases annually.
- Ninety-five percent of the cases of Lyme disease are reported in the northeastern portion of the United States with a cluster in the north central region.
- All four of the main tick borne diseases are geographically expanding from the point of origination. The frequency of tick borne diseases has increased 35 percent in many vectors and has spread from there.
- Most infections of diseases are occurring during the nymphal stage of the life cycle of ticks. The reported cases are corresponding with the nymph feeding time and therefore extreme precautions should be taken during that time. The nymph stage in the life cycle of a tick is extremely small so hosts may not even know they have been bitten.
With summer now in full swing, it is easy to get lulled in complacency about staying safe outdoors especially when you really just want to entertain on your patio or deck with friends and family. However there are still dangers lurking in your yard that could spell medical problems for your loved ones if you don’t take precautions to stay safe this summer. Ticks are one such pest that you should be aware of especially given the potential of transmission of diseases such as Lyme Disease in our region of the globe. There are also some pieces of information that are inaccurate about ticks that you should also be aware of. Let’s examine the Myths and Facts of Ticks.
Myth – Ticks can jump or leap from trees and attach to your clothes or skin.
Fact – Ticks can’t jump, leap or dance! They generally hang out on shrubs or tall grasses or wild animal living near your home, waiting to crawl over to their targets when they brush by the plant that they’re sitting on. They can also crawl right up a person or animal’s body from the ground.
Myth – All Ticks carry disease.
Fact – This is just not true even though the number of infections, transmissions and diseases have risen rapidly over the last few years. Many ticks actually do not carry diseases. Do not panic immediately if you are bitten or find a tick on you. Watch the spot for a telltale bullseye pattern and even draw a circle in pen around the spot to monitor it.
Myth – You will know when you have been bitten.
Fact – Many people have no idea that they have had a tick on them until symptoms begin appearing and they get a blood test at the doctor’s office.
Myth – You’ll know you have Lyme disease if you see a rash that looks like a bullseye.
Fact – A telltale sign of Lyme disease is a bullseye-like rash where the bite took place, commonly appearing as a red spot with a red ring around it. According to the CDC’s signs and symptoms of untreated Lyme disease, however, only about 70 to 80 percent of infected people get this type of rash — so you could still be infected even if your skin doesn’t show it.
If you do find a tick on you after inspecting, the CDC advises to completely remove the mouthparts or the entire head of the tick from the skin, which are the parts you really need to worry about. The idea is to get at least the living part of the tick out within 24 hours to prevent disease.
Ticks are huge party poopers when it comes to outdoor entertaining and spending the summer in our yards. This time of year is especially tricky since we tend to spend not only our daylight hours enjoying the outdoors but also our evenings entertaining by fire pits or at the kitchen patio. Add this to the fact that our homes are being built further and further into non residential areas and it is a dangerous combination. How can you keep your family safe this summer from ticks AND still enjoy your outdoor time? Here are a few ideas to prevent ticks from ruining your fun this summer.
- Plan your Outfits Carefully – Ticks do not jump or leap but rather crawl from grasses, wildlife or bushes to their next meal. This means you need to dress appropriately and in an informed manner. Whenever possible wear socks that can cover your ankles and pants that cover your legs. Wear light colored clothing so you can spot ticks easier than on dark clothing.
- Wear Repellant – Apply topical insect repellent that contains less than 40 percent DEET. Children should use repellent that contains no more than 30 percent DEET.
- Conduct Tick Checks -Tick bites are painless, so if you are in an area with ticks, perform a thorough tick check and remove ticks immediately. Tick bites many times are not felt since their saliva is loaded with antihistamines, anticoagulants and other inhibitors that prevent wound healing, and dampen pain and itch responses.
- Create a Tick Free Zone – Call Pro-Tech to discuss treatment options for your yard. Other ways to create a tick free zone is by keeping lawns trimmed and creating barriers between your yard and the woods with wood chips, mulch or gravel. This can eliminate tall grass where ticks crawl. Remove wood piles and stones where mice, chipmunks and squirrels may hide.
- Include your Pets in your Prevention – Using flea collars and tick prevention methods recommended by your veterinarian can help prevent your dog or cat from bringing ticks into your home for transference to your skin.
After this uncommonly mild winter, the tick season could possibly be the worst on record. The winter that just ended was the hottest on U.S. record. What does this mean for the tick population? While extreme cold temperatures won’t necessarily kill ticks it can delay their appearance in large numbers. So a warmer than normal winter can opposite effects. Chuck Lubelczyk, field biologist with Maine Medical Center Research Institute reports several important differences in this year’s tick population.
- The tick season got underway at least a month earlier than usual – March began the tick season for many property owners in and around the New England region.
- The warmer than usual winter has extended the season for the blood-sucking parasites.
- Following a record setting warm winter, many experts are now predicting that New England’s tick and mosquito population will also be higher than average too.
The Dangers of this Season’s Tick Population
With the bad news of the tick population being larger than normal and tick season being longer than normal what dangers should you be aware of?
- Lyme Disease – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, statistics indicate 96 percent of confirmed Lyme disease cases in people in 2014 were reported from 14 states, including all six New England states. Lyme doesn’t occur nationwide, and is most prominent in the Northeast and upper Midwest. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in this region but unfortunately not the only disease.
- Lone Star Tick Disease – The Lone Star tick transmits very serious diseases in addition to spotted fever, including ehrlichiosis, an infection of the white blood cells that can lead to joint pain and lameness in dogs, and can be fatal if untreated. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Animals is reporting that Lone Star ticks are making an aggressive move into New England, and there are known pockets on parts of Cape Cod, and likely elsewhere in Massachusetts. These ticks spread several diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
As a reminder the Centers for Disease Control suggests the following prevention techniques.
- Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
- Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
- Consider using an insect repellent containing DEET and applying it to shoes and clothing.
- Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors.
- Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Avoid overgrown brush and tall grass and contacting vegetation.
- Do a full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly.
- Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
- Keep long hair tied back.
- When found, remove ticks promptly.
Every year the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) compiles the prevalence numbers for diseases across the globe and within the United States. One grouping of such diseases include the nationally reported diseases known as tick-borne illnesses such as: Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Tularemia.
As this year is winding down, it is a good time to take a look at the prevalence of these diseases in our New England area. Here is a series of maps published by the CDC showing the reported cases of the diseases listed above.
While the numbers are not completed for 2015, the numbers have been analyzed for last year. They may be alarming especially for our region which is impacted by several types of these tick-borne diseases. (Notice the graph shows Massachusetts and other New England states in the higher percentiles.) Let these numbers be a reminder to be “tick wise” in what we wear, how we examine our skin after exposure and what signs and symptoms to look for in the event of a tick bite. The Lyme Disease Association has gathered a great reminder packet to review each year as we look at these maps and numbers. Lyme Disease Association Charts
Summer is a time of “all things outdoors” – hiking, biking, picnics and gardening in the yard to name just a few favorite outdoor activities. Unfortunately, summer is also a time of mosquitoes, ticks and bees. Most people living on the North Shore of Massachusetts are well aware of the dangers of EEE, West Nile disease, and Lyme disease. But have you heard of Tick-borne relapsing fever? While this specific disease usually affects states in the western part of the country, it is not unheard of that easterners have contracted this particularly horrible disease mainly through travel. Let’s look at the symptoms, types and treatments for Tick-borne Relapsing Fever.
Symptoms– Relapsing fever, as its name implies, is an illness characterized primarily by recurrent episodes of fever, often accompanied by fatigue and malaise. Some other symptoms of TBRF may include:
- Muscle or joint aches
- Stiff neck
Types of Relapsing fever – There are two major types of relapsing fever including tick borne and louse borne relapsing fever.
- Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF) is transmitted by the Ornithodoros tick. It occurs in Africa, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Asia, and certain areas in the western United States and Canada. The bacterial species associated with TBRF are Borrelia duttoni, Borrelia hermsii, and Borrelia parkerii.
- Louse-borne relapsing fever (LBRF) is transmitted by body lice. It is most common in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. The bacterial species associated with LBRF is Borrelia recurrentis. This type is more common in poor nations and areas where rodents are infesting living areas.
Treatment – See your doctor right away if you think you have TBRF or any tick borne disease. He or she can test your blood for TBRF. Your doctor will most likely treat the disease with antibiotics. Due to the seriousness and complications associated with this disease it is important to seek immediate medical help. The death rate varies according to the severity but complications could include:
- Drooping of the face
- Liver problems
- Inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
- Inflammation of the heart muscle, which may lead to irregular heart rate
- Shock related to taking antibiotics (Jarisch-Herxheimer’s reaction, in which the rapid death of very large numbers of Borreliabacteria causes shock)
- Widespread bleeding