Don’t Get “Tick”ed, Lyme Disease Can be Prevented

 

The Middleboro Gazette had an interesting article on deer ticks and Lyme disease, below is a condensed version of that article.

 Most people think that once the first frost of the year hits we no longer have to worry about ticks until the flowers start blooming again. Unfortunately for us, that is not the case. Although there is an increase in tick activity between the months of May and July, the truth is that ticks are not just a warm weather threat. Deer tick project coordinator/entomologist for Barnstable County Larry Dapsis sheds some light on ways to reduce the risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. Although ticks are found all over the country, the New England area has one of the largest numbers of Lyme disease cases per year. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, there were approximately four thousand diagnosed cases of Lyme disease in Massachusetts in 2009.

“Lyme disease is the second most prevalent disease in Massachusetts behind Hepatitis C, and it could be number one if you consider the misdiagnosed and undiagnosed cases each year,” Larry said.

Lyme disease is the most well-known tick-borne disease. According to Mr. Dapsis, Lyme disease hides in your lymph nodes and can cause fever, headache, and fatigue. If left untreated, the disease can then cause joint problems, cardiac issues, and neurological issues. There is typically a rash that appears at the site of the bite that looks similar to a bulls eye. This disease can be contracted numerous times without your body creating a defense against it.

Lyme disease is not the only disease that can be contracted from a tick. Another disease is called Anaplasmosis. This pathogen invades your white blood cells and causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches and headaches. The other is called Babesiosis, a pathogen that invades your red blood cells and, according to Mr. Dapsis, “blows them up.” This disease causes malaria-like symptoms such as sweats, chills, gastrointestinal distress, respiratory distress, and severe anemia.

The issue that plagues many is how to successfully keep ticks from attacking people and transmitting these diseases. There are several things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of a tick bite, such as using an insect repellant that contains DEET or Permethrin. There are also Permethrin sprays for your clothing, which last for approximately six washes before needing to be reapplied. There is now even Permethrin-treated clothing that can repel ticks for up to seventy washings.

“In terms of protecting yourself, what really has been under-communicated is the potential benefit of repellant treated clothing,” said Larry.

Mr. Dapsis had a pair of these slacks on hand, made by the company Insect Shield, and demonstrated their power. He placed three female deer ticks on the pants and we watched as the ticks appeared to become increasingly more disoriented until they eventually stopped moving altogether. The whole process took approximately ten minutes. According to Larry, the ticks are doomed if exposed to the chemical infused apparel for more than sixty seconds.

“These pants act like a tick waterslide, they grab on then slide right off. I have been using these pants as well as spraying my boots and socks with Permethrin and have not had a single tick bite all year, and I am out there in the brush looking for them,” Larry said.

Ticks only feed three times in their two year life cycle. There are four stages to a tick’s life cycle. They are egg stage, the larva stage, the nymph stage, and the adult stage. A bite from a tick in the larva stage holds no real threat as they have not had the chance to contract anything from biting an infected animal. The nymph stage is the most dangerous, because ticks in this stage typically bite small rodents or birds and contract the diseases from them. Once they finish feeding and detach from that animal, they are now infected for life and can transmit that disease to another organism it attaches to. According to Larry, 25% of nymphs carry at least one of the three main tick-borne diseases, and they transmit these diseases most often due to their small size. A typical nymph is the size of a single poppy seed. 50% of adult ticks carry at least one of the three diseases, but transmission is less likely as they are more readily seen and are removed before anything can be transmitted. Mr. Dapsis stated that it takes approximately 24 hours to contract a tick-borne disease.

To read the complete story, please visit http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111201/PUB04/112010442/1040