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Prime Time for Lyme: How to Protect Yourself From Ticks

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Tick-and-Lyme-DiseaseIt might seem like New England’s recent long, brutal, snow-packed winter would assist in combatting tick populations come spring, but the bad news is that the abundant snow might actually have acted as a protective blanket for them1. It’s no secret that ticks have become increasingly prevalent over the past decade, and the diseases they carry and transmit make them much more than just a nuisance.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) released three preliminary studies that indicated the number of Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease is higher than previously reported – in fact, much higher. Prior to this study, the estimate was 30,000 cases annually in the U.S. Today that number is closer to 300,000. Additionally, it is estimated that up to 1 million people each year could potentially be affected; women and children are most at risk2.

Why tick control is more crucial than ever

Lyme disease is an infectious disease that is transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of a deer tick infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Young ticks, called nymphs, are especially voracious, and it is through their bites that most humans become infected. No bigger than a poppy seed, the ticks can be very hard to find, even when thorough tick checks are done regularly.

It’s important to know that bites do not always result in the notorious “bull’s-eye” rash associated with the illness. Twenty to thirty percent of those infected experience no visible rash at all. As a result, many of those bitten do not seek early treatment3. If not recognized and/or treated promptly with a course of antibiotics, the bacteria spreads throughout the body and can cause severe, debilitating arthritic, neurological, and even cardiac symptoms. Later stages of the disease are much harder to treat, and can lead to chronic conditions that persist for years.

Additionally, scientists are finding that – contrary to current CDC guidelines –transmission of Lyme disease does not necessarily require an attachment time of 36-48 hours. This time estimate was arrived at as a result of studies performed on mice and rabbits with strains of B. burgdorferi that likely differ from those found in the wild. But, transmission time in animal models is not necessarily the same for humans. In fact, some studies have shown evidence that Lyme disease transmission can easily occur in less than 24 hours, and in as little as four4,5.

The Maine CDC 2014 Lyme Disease Surveillance Report showed a record high of 1,399 probable and confirmed cases of Lyme disease with eight counties (Cumberland, Hancock, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Waldo, and York) having higher rates than the state’s6. It’s clear that Lyme disease is rapidly becoming an epidemic—particularly in the Northeast. What is also clear is that while practicing common sense approaches to avoiding contact with ticks is always wise, it’s just not enough anymore. The most proven effective way to reduce deer tick populations is by using tick pesticides—known as acaricides.

Aren’t pesticides dangerous?

The short answer is yes, and no. Pesticides can be extremely dangerous and harmful if not applied and used properly. There are hundreds of pesticides on the market today, and their inexpensive price tag makes them appear to be an appealing alternative to paying for professional tick control services.

The reality is that there are many key differences between a DIY approach and investing in tick control services—and it all boils down to safety. There is a science to applying pesticides, and this fact is often overlooked by homeowners who choose to tackle the job themselves. It is a common misconception that if a little is good, then more must be better. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that “homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on their crops” 7. Without proper precautionary measures, homeowners can expose themselves and their family to these chemicals through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact. Each year, approximately 100,000 accidental pesticide exposures are reported to poison control centers—and many of them are in children8.

Professionals are trained to spray for ticks only where necessary, only at the correct times, and only under proper weather conditions. A small, strategic application of an acaricide (primarily along the yard perimeter) twice each year is all that is necessary to drastically reduce the tick population on your property so you can keep your family and pets safe from exposure to Lyme and other tick-related diseases.

In dire situations like these, in which the risk of not using chemical combatants is potentially more dangerous to your health than using them, it’s time to reconsider pesticides. Currently, the CDC’s top recommendation for preventing ticks in your yard is safely applied acaricides—and they suggest hiring professionals in order to eliminate health concerns and/or risk9.

How Lucas Tree Can Help

Our tick control program involves a thorough analysis of your property’s “hot spots” as well as the location of your gardens, so that when we come back to spray we know exactly where to spray—and where to avoid. We make sure to call you prior to our arrival to ensure that your windows are closed and your pets are safely inside. Our licensed applicators use backpack mist blowers to apply microfine droplets of a pyrethrin-based acaricide evenly over areas where ticks are most likely to be hiding. This form of application enables us to provide superior proven results with fewer chemicals—and that’s something we’re very proud to be able to do.

Since day one, our company values have been deeply rooted in protecting our planet’s natural resources. We take our roles as environmental stewards very seriously, and we firmly believe in using pesticides only when absolutely necessary. When it comes to minimizing the threat of tick-related diseases, we address it in the safest—and most effective—way we possibly can. We are as passionately committed to our clients’ safety as we are to the health of the properties on which they live; we wouldn’t be here for as long as we have been if that wasn’t the case. If you have any concerns or questions about our tick services, or you’d like us to come take a look at your property, Talk with a Lucas Tree Expert today and we’ll make sure that your yard is as tick-free as possible this year.

References:

1.    “Warm Weather Means Ticks Are Coming out.” WCSH6. WCSH6 Portland, 6 May 2015. Web.

2.    Stricker, Raphael B., and Lorraine Johnson. “Lyme Disease: Call for a “Manhattan Project” to Combat the Epidemic.” PLoS Pathogens. Public Library of Science, 02 Jan. 2014. Web.

3.    “Lyme Disease: Signs and Symptoms.” CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 Mar. 2015. Web. <http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms/>.

4.    Hynote, Eleanor D., Phyllis C. Mervine, and Raphael B. Stricker. “Clinical Evidence for Rapid Transmission of Lyme Disease following a Tickbite.” Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease 72.2 (2012): 188-92. Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease. Web. <http://www.painfatiguelyme.com/DMIDFinal2=12.pdf>.

5.    Cook, Michael J. “Lyme Borreliosis: A Review of Data on Transmission Time after Tick Attachment.” International Journal of General Medicine. Dove Medical Press, 14 Dec. 2014. Web. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4278789/#b48-ijgm-8-001>.

6.    Infectious Disease Epidemiology Report–Lyme Disease Surveillance Report – Maine, 2014. Rep. Maine Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. <http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/publications/2014-Lyme-Surveillance-Report.pdf>.

7.    “Homeowner’s Guide to Protecting Frogs – : Lawn and Garden Care.”USFWS. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, n.d. Web. <http://www.fws.gov/Contaminants/DisplayLibrary.cfm?ID=5EA644DD-0437-276C-E59C3CA91C680887&Verify=0>.

8.    “Risks from Lawn Care Pesticides.” EHH. Environment and Human Health Inc, n.d. Web. <http://www.ehhi.org/reports/lcpesticides/summary.shtml>.

9.    “Preventing Ticks in the Yard.” CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 Feb. 2014. Web.