Monday, April 28, 2014

Spring, the Ticks are Back

From CDC
The black legged tick  also known as the deer tick responsible for infection with Lyme disease goes through four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. After hatching from the eggs, ticks must eat blood at every stage to survive. Most ticks go through all these life stages and can take up to 3 years to complete their full life cycle, requiring a host at each stage for feeding on blood. Ticks can pass infections from one host to the next. Ticks are arachnids, relatives of spiders and live in wooded areas, brushy fields, and around your home. Though ticks are most active during the warmer months, adult ticks may be out searching for a host when winter temperatures are above freezing.
The black legged tick, Borrelia bugdorferi from CDC

The black legged tick is not the only tick to worry about, there are other ticks that carry disease. In addition, there are other diseases carried by ticks. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, reports 10 other groups of diseases spread by ticks. Ticks can carry more than one disease and Lyme disease patients are sometimes co-infected with another tick-borne disease, complicating diagnosis and treatment. Other tick borne diseases include: anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, powassan, rickettsia parkeri rickettiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, STARI, tickborne relapsing fever, tularemeia, 364D Rickettsiosis. These diseases cause everything from chills, rash, fever and flu like symptoms to kidney failure and even death. Co-infection can make diagnosis trickier and may call for different treatment. There is still much we do not know about tick borne illnesses and the bacteria that cause disease continue to evolve developing resistance to treatment.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi through the bite of infected black legged ticks (also called the deer tick). Early symptoms can include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic bull’s-eye skin rash and is often mistaken for flu. The Mayo Clinic reports that with treatment with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of the disease that most people recover completely. However in some individuals and in later stages, response to treatment may be slower, but the majority of people with Lyme disease are reported to recover eventually. Left untreated, Lyme disease can cause: Chronic joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis), particularly of the knee, neurological symptoms, such as facial palsy and neuropathy, cognitive defects, such as impaired memory and heart rhythm irregularities. Lyme disease is serious and to be avoided and the best way to do this is to prevent tick bites. You could completely avoid the outdoors in the warmer months of April to September or you can take precautions.
engorged black legged tick

Start with trying to avoid direct contact with ticks. Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. During the warms months of the year apply bug repellents that contain 20% - 30% DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. Before sending the kids out to play parents should apply bug repellent to their children. Use products that contain permethrin only on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. It remains effective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings, though some field studies indicate that treated socks should be replaced more frequently.

After playing outdoors, working in the garden or playing with pets you will need to make sure there are no ticks on your body. Remove all outdoor clothing upon entering the home. I strip in the mudroom, leaving my shoes and outdoor gear in it racks and tossing my clothes into the laundry room floor. Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs, all outdoor equipment should remain in the mud room or garage. Wash your clothes in hot water and tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)

Then it’s off to the bathroom to make sure there are no ticks on your body. Start with fine combing your hair and bathe immediately to wash off and more easily find ticks that might be crawling on you. While bathing conduct a full-body tick check under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in your hair. Ticks are very small as you can see in the diagram below from the CDC, be diligent.

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