Few pests evoke as many questions from people as ticks. Besides their repulsive appearance, ticks are vectors of potentially debilitating and life-threatening diseases. Lyme disease, in particular, has attracted national attention and is now the number one arthropod-borne disease in the United States. |
Ticks prefer to live in woods, tall grass, weeds and brush. They climb onto low vegetation and attach to suitable hosts which pass by, including pets and people. Ticks are seldom a problem in well-maintained lawns although edges of property supporting tall weeds and brush can be a source of infestation. The best way to avoid acquiring ticks is through prevention:
Avoid walking through uncut fields, brush and other areas likely to harbor ticks. When hiking or picnicing in these areas, wear long pants tucked into socks and consider using tick repellents. Walk in the center of mowed trails to avoid brushing up against vegetation. Inspect family and pets after being in tick-infested areas, and promptly remove any ticks which are found (ticks most often attach at the neck and scalp). Use the method of removal described below. Keep grass and shrubs in your yard trimmed, and clear overgrown vegetation from edges of your property. Ticks avoid direct sunlight and will not infest areas which are well maintained. Free-roaming pets are much more likely to become infested with ticks than are those which are confined. Pets may be treated with insecticide dips or sprays, although these products generally lose effectiveness in about a week. Treating lawns is of little benefit since this is not a preferred habitat for ticks. If insecticides are used, treatment should be concentrated in areas where pets, rodents, and other potential wild hosts of ticks are likely to frequent, e.g., dog house, fenceline, and along margins between wooded or brushy areas and the lawn. Carbaryl (Sevin), chlorpyrifos, and diazinon are effective materials, as is permethrin. Make 1-2 applications -- the first during April or May when ticks are detected, and another, if needed, in early July. A good way to determine if ticks are present is to drag a 3x3-ft white flannel or cotton sheet through suspected areas. Ticks will attach to the sheet and be visible against the white background.
What's the best way to remove an attached tick?
Using a fine-point tweezers, grasp the tick just behind the point of attachment and pull slowly and steadily until the tick is dislodged. Vaseline, matches and other alternate methods of removal should be avoided. Wash the bite area, apply antiseptic and cover with a band-aid.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a potentially serious bacterial infection, transmitted through the bite of certain species of ticks. The disease affects humans and a wide range of animals including pets and livestock. Lyme disease manifests itself in many ways and if left untreated may progress through several stages. The disease is difficult to diagnose clinically because early symptoms often mimic the flu (i.e., fatigue, headache, stiffness or pain in neck, muscles or joints, fever, or swollen glands). The most definitive early symptom is a gradually expanding circular or oval-shaped red rash. This rash only develops in about 70% of infected individuals, however, and may be overlooked.
Persons who experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms after being bitten by a tick (or having spent time in tick-infested areas), should consult a physician immediately. Lyme disease can be treated successfully in these early stages with antibiotics. As the disease progresses, it becomes more difficult to manage. Later symptoms of infection may include heart and neurological disorders, and arthritis.
Definitive tick identification, however, requires the expertise of an entomologist. Immature stages of lone star is Ixodes ticks are both extremely small (about the size of a sesame seed), and are easily mistaken for one another.It should be noted that ticks capable of transmitting Lyme disease must be attached for at least 24 hours for infection to occur. A person cannot become infected simply by having a tick crawl over their skin or clothing.
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