'Tis the tick season

Daily tick checks best method of prevention
By Fran Gonzalez | Jul 13, 2018
Courtesy of: USDA A female deer tick is about the size of a sesame seed and can remain attached to a host for seven to 10 days.

Belfast — With warmer weather now in full swing, backyard gardeners, hikers and outdoor enthusiast alike take note — tick season is well underway and, according to experts, the best method for avoiding tickborne diseases is vigilance.

Maine Center for Disease Control charts show there is a significant trend: Reported cases of Lyme disease in Waldo County jumped from 178 cases (per 100,000) in 2016, to 366 cases in 2017.

The CDC indicates that up until 2016, most cases of Lyme disease in Maine were found in Midcoast counties — Hancock, Waldo, Lincoln and Sagadahoc — as well as in Kennebec county. But as of 2017, 185 cases (per 100,000) have now been reported in northern Somerset county, showing a northerly trajectory for the disease.

On the upswing as well is anaplasmosis, a tickborne disease that infects white blood cells. This disease can cause fever, headache and body aches and can be fatal if not treated correctly.

In 2016 there were 25 confirmed anaplasmosis cases (per 100,000) reported in Waldo County. By comparison, in 2017 there were 97 cases reported. In the entire state of Maine anaplasmosis cases rose from 372 in 2016, to 662 in 2017.

If bitten, the CDC says one of the most obvious signs of Lyme disease is a red bulls-eye rash, which occurs in about 70 percent to 80 percent of cases.

Fatigue, headache, fever and chills, muscle or joint soreness are also signs to watch out for and usually occur within the first month after the tick bite.

If not treated, Lyme disease causes chronic fatigue, cognitive problems, neuropathy, depression and, eventually, can be fatal.

Angus Beal, an Emergency Department doctor at Waldo County General Hospital, said, "We treat patients with tick bites who have had the tick on them for greater than 24 hours, or if the tick looks significantly engorged.

"You have 36 hours after the tick has been removed to seek treatment," Beal said, "So no need to rush in in the middle of the night."

The usual treatment course for Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and other tickborne illnesses is three weeks of doxycycline, he said. Currently treatment doses are only for those "over 8 years old, but this may change in the coming years," Beal said.

The Mayo Clinic notes a side effect of using doxycycline is skin sensitivity and rash. Exposure to sunlight, even for a brief period, may cause a severe sunburn.

To remove a tick that has attached, use tweezers to grab the tick at its mouth and apply firm pressure to pull the tick out. Avoid crushing the tick’s body because its bodily fluids may be harmful. Tick "spoons" are effective and readily available as well.

The CDC recommends cleaning the bite area after tick removal with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. The tick may be placed in a sealed bag or container and frozen for later analysis, if warranted.

Beal said preventive measures include wearing protective clothing: long-sleeve shirts and long pants. Tuck pants into socks and shirt into pants to create a barrier against tick attachment, he said, adding that light-colored clothing makes spotting ticks easier. He also recommends a daily tick check and shower to wash off any unattached ticks.

Using an EPA-approved repellent can also aid in prevention. Products containing permethrin (for clothes, not skin), DEET, picaridin and IR3535 have been found to be effective.

Permethrin, however, is toxic to honeybees, fish and aquatic invertebrates, according to the National Pesticide Information Center.

Ticks prefer brushy thickets, shrubby areas and leaf piles where they are protected from extreme weather. Ticks do not jump or fly, but while walking on a wooded trail be aware of overhanging branches and leaves where ticks can attach themselves.

The Maine Medical Center Research Institute says most cases of Lyme disease occur in summer months by a nymph bite, a young tick that has molted from the larvae state. In Maine, nymphs peak in late June and July, which is when approximately 65 percent of Lyme disease cases are reported.

It is possible to contract Lyme disease multiple times, Beal warns.

"Daily tick checks are very important, especially for children. This is probably the single best method of prevention," he said.

 

 

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.