MED+ Urgent Care Blog

This Tick Season May Be The Worst In Years!!
Fri, May 5, 2017

Tick season is upon us, and it’s shaping up to be a real doozy. Scientists predict 2017 will bear the highest number of ticks in recent years, with a jump in reported cases of tick-borne illnesses in some regions of the U.S.

Ticks are thriving thanks to a recent explosion of the white-footed mice population, which carry Lyme disease, Powassan virus and other tick-borne illnesses. Meanwhile, warmer winters caused by climate change are allowing ticks to remain active longer and carry diseases into new regions of the U.S.

Experts suggest people living in regions where these diseases are most prevalent ― the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and upper Midwest â€• should learn about common tick misconceptions and best practices to avoid bites.

Black-legged ticks are the common carriers of several tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, Powassan virus and babesiosis. They can have life cycles of up to two to three years and are most active between May and July.

Theodore G. Andreadis is the director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, which collects ticks and analyzes them for pathogens. He said his organization has received an unusually high number of samples this year and a “concerning” number have tested positive for disease-causing organisms.

“With the mild winter, we had ticks being brought into our lab for testing as early as February,” Andreadis said. “And the number we’re seeing in our laboratory are at least tenfold higher than we’ve seen in recent years.”

Andreadis said 38-40 percent of the ticks coming through his lab test positive for a type of bacteria that carries Lyme disease ― roughly 7-8 percent more than usual.

People who get Lyme disease suffer from unpleasant symptoms like a rash, facial paralysis and swollen knees. But it isn’t always easy to detect, and if left untreated can progress to complications like memory problems, heart rhythm irregularities and chronic arthritis. 

“We’ve got a combination of a higher number of ticks and a higher prevalence of these infectious agents,” Andreadis said. “We really want the public to use some precautions. We got a lot of ticks out there ― that’s the bottom line. And we haven’t even reached peak season yet.”

Prevention

  • Avoid areas with high grass, brush and leaf clutter.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves and closed-toe shoes when hiking. Tuck your pants into your socks, too.
  • Don’t stray from the center of hiking trails.
  • Use repellent with permethrin to treat your clothes and shoes. 
  • Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 directly on skin for protection that lasts a few hours.
  • Thoroughly check your body if you’ve been in a tick-prone area, and shower as soon as possible once indoors.
  • Have a friend inspect hard-to-see areas of your body like the back, neck and scalp.
  • Parents should use bath time to thoroughly check young children for ticks daily.
  • If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers immediately.
  • Call your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms after removing a tick.
  • Throw your clothes in the dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill any stowaway ticks.
  • Check dogs and cats for ticks frequently, and ask your veterinarian about tick preventives for pets. 

Bottom line: If you spend time outdoors in an area prone to ticks, assume you’ve picked one up. Do a thorough check when you’re back indoors and remove any ticks immediately.

Many thanks to Hayley Miller and The Huffington Post Healthy Living for this information