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Ticks and Lyme Disease

6/14/2010 12:00:00 AM
Ticks and Lyme Disease

An article in Saturday’s News Journal, one of the most-read newspapers in our service area, reported that Delaware has the second-highest incidence of Lyme disease in the nation. The causes behind this statistic are many, and not fully understood, but it is important for anyone who plans to spend time outdoors in the local area to become familiar with ticks, the threat they pose, how to treat bites, etc.

What are ticks? What do they look like?

Ticks are small arachnids (meaning they have eight legs, not six like insects), which feed on the blood of animals. They find a host, latch on, and feast on blood until they are engorged, swelling up to several times their original size. Ticks can most often be found in wooded and grassy areas, often near water.

Do ticks fly or jump?

No, they only crawl.

How many kinds of ticks are there? How can I tell the difference between them?

While there are hundreds of tick species, the most common to Delmarva are the dog tick and the deer tick. The deer tick is much smaller than the dog tick, and for this reason, bites sometimes go undetected.

Should I be worried about Lyme disease?

Lyme disease, a bacterial disease that is usually transmitted by ticks, can cause tiredness, fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and other flu-like symptoms (indeed, many sufferers of Lyme disease are first misdiagnosed with the flu). However, it can be treated with oral antibiotics. The News Journal reports that “hundreds of Delawareans…contract the tick-borne illness every year,” but it should be remembered that not all ticks carry disease; in fact, most don’t.

Can ticks transfer any other diseases?

Ticks can transmit several other diseases, though Lyme disease is the best known, assuming that they have already been infected with the disease by a host.

What steps should I take to protect myself from ticks?

When working in tick-infested areas (wooded areas, or tall grass), tuck pant legs into socks and apply insect repellent. At the end of the day, check your body thoroughly for ticks, particularly in your hair.

If bitten, how should I remove a tick from my body?

Remove the tick with tweezers, being sure not to separate the body from the head (if part of the tick is left in the skin, it can cause infection). Do not remove the tick with your fingers; this often results in an incomplete removal. Clean the area thoroughly, as you would do for any other bite or cut.

I’m concerned about ticks on my property. Is there a treatment available to take care of them?

While most pesticides used to treat other pests will also take care of ticks, the difficulty lies in treating large areas, particularly those which are wooded. A good start is to mow tall grasses and eliminate harborage areas. For more information, call Brasure’s at 302-436-8140.

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