Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tick season is expected to be more dangerous this year; here are lots of tips to keep you protected

Warm weather and outdoor activities go hand in hand, but it also mean tick season is upon us -- and it's expected to be a bad one this year because the winter was so mild. Tick season in Kentucky runs through August.

Mosquito Squad of Louisville graphic; click on it to see a larger version
The lone star tick and the American dog tick are the most common ticks in Kentucky, and are commonly found in wooded or grassy areas.

The dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which begins with a sudden onset of fever and headache two to 14 days after being bitten. Other symptoms can include nausea, muscle pain, lack of appetite and a rash that occurs two to five days after the fever. RMSF can be fatal in the first eight days of symptoms if not treated correctly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The lone star tick is the main carrier of erlichiosis, which causes fever, headache, chills and muscle pain about one to two weeks after being bitten. It is an aggressive biter, and saliva from its bite can cause painful, itchy areas.

The deer or black legged tick is less common in Kentucky, but it is the one that is known to transmit Lyme disease and Powassan virus.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can range from mild to severe, and include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart or the nervous system. It is most prevalent in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwestern states. The CDC estimates there are 300,000 Lyme disease infections each year. "If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours your chance of getting Lyme disease is extremely small," says the CDC.

While Powassan virus is most common in the Northeast and the Great Lakes region, it's important to be aware of this virus, especially if you are traveling to these areas, because it can cause encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, and can be deadly. It is also dangerous because it can be transferred from a tick to a human within the first 15 minutes of attachment.

The CDC reports that about 75 cases of Powassan virus have been reported in the U.S. over the past 10 years. Some symptoms of Powasan virus infection are fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss.

The Mosquito Squad of Louisville blog says that 10 percent of people the infected with this virus who get encephalitis will die, "and there is no treatment. Only the symptoms are treatable. Fifty percent of those that survive will have permanent neurological damage of some kind."

Removing ticks: A popular social-media video advises dousing ticks in peppermint oil to get them to pull away from the skin for easy removal. Almost half a million viewers have shared the post, but experts say this is one of the worst things you can do, Caroline Picard reports for Country Living.

"Ticks carry all sorts of diseases," entomologist Dr. Neeta Connally recently told KFGO Radio in Fargo, N.D. "Those are actually salivated into the body when the tick attaches, and so we don't want to agitate the tick in any way that is going to make it salivate more and thereby be more likely to transmit anything."

                                 CDC image
Remove ticks by grasping them as close to the skin as possible with tweezers and pulling straight out with gentle, even pressure. Multiple sources say to not use petroleum jelly, gasoline, hot matches or other "folk remedies" to remove ticks. Dispose of the tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed container or bag or flushing it down the toilet. Once removed, wash the bite area, apply antiseptic and cover with a Band-Aid.

"Never crush a tick with your fingers," warns the CDC.

To protect yourself from ticks, here are some tips from experts:
  • Keep grass and shrubs trimmed, and clear away overgrown vegetation; 
  • Don't walk through uncut fields, brush and overgrown areas; 
  • Walk in the center of hiking trails; 
  • Wear light-colored clothing, which makes it easier to spot ticks; 
  • Wear long pants tucked into boots or socks and tuck your shirt into your pants; 
  • Place a band of duct tape, sticky side out, around your lower legs to trap ticks; 
  • Use tick repellent that has DEET or picaridin, or use permethrin-based clothing sprays; 
  • Check your body and clothing at the end of each day; 
  • Take a warm soapy shower after potential exposure; 
  • Check your outdoor gear and pets;
  • To kill ticks on clothing, tumble dry for 10 minutes; wash dirty clothes in hot water. If clothes can't be washed in hot water, tumble dry for 90 minutes on regular heat or 60 minutes on high.

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