You Found A Tick on You, Now What?May 28, 2014
When you think about ticks, you may think you’re at greatest risk taking a hike through dense woods or camping in the wilderness. Would you be surprised to know that 75% of Lyme disease cases are contracted within one hundred feet of home? It’s true, according to Bob Maurais, co-owner of Mainely Ticks.
Deer tics, the primary culprit for transferring Lyme disease to humans, are becoming a more prominent force (and fear) here in Maine. In 2005, Maine saw just 200 reported cases. In 2012, the state recorded 1,111 cases of this debilitating illness – setting a new record. Even more staggering, it’s estimated that only one in six cases is reported – meaning that as many as 6,000 people may have contracted Lyme disease in our state last year. According to Dr. Rand, who studies ticks and Lyme disease at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute’s Vector-borne Disease Laboratory in South Portland, “the hottest places are coastal York and Cumberland counties and the midcoast region. Camden-Rockport has upwards of two hundred cases per one hundred thousand.”
How did ticks get here? The first cases were diagnosed in Lyme, Connecticut (hence the origin of the disease name) in 1975. The ticks then attached to birds traveling the Atlantic Flyway and spread up the New England coast, arriving in Maine in 1987. Lyme disease has flourished in the state since its arrival. Additionally, Dr. Robert Smith, principal investigator with MMCRI’s Vector-borne Disease Laboratory, attributes the rise in Lyme disease to “more people living in habitat shared with deer.” As it stands now, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control 2002-2011 figures, Maine ranks third in nation for Lyme disease, behind New Hampshire and Delaware.
Detecting the small-as-a-poppy-seed deer tick
What’s the best way to detect a deer tick that may have attached itself to you? If you simply use a quick visual check, it may appear that you are free and clear from ticks. However, deer ticks are the size of a poppy seed. Yes, that small. Here’s what they (and some other common Maine ticks) look like:
The best method of detecting deer ticks is to do a manual tick check. Bob Maurais advises to “employ the sensitivity of your fingertips. You’re going to feel things you aren’t going to see.”
Fortunately, Lyme disease does not occur as soon as a tick attaches to you. Typically, ticks travel over the body for up to 24 hours before deciding on a place to attach to and make home. Then, you have about a 36-hour window post-attachment before you are infected. More technically, “when your blood hits the tick’s stomach, it causes the bacteria to reproduce. The bacteria eventually go through the gut wall into the tick’s saliva, but it takes thirty-six hours to get to the saliva gland,” says Dr. Peter Rand. Unfortunately, not many people feel – or remember – a tick bite, furthering the importance of thorough manual and visual tick checks after each time you come inside after being outdoors.
A tick is on you. Don’t panic and follow these steps:
- Grasp the tick as close as possible to the skin using a pair of fine pointed tweezers
- Pull straight out with a steady motion (since a tick’s mouthpart is barbed like a fish-hook, it may take several minutes of steady pressure for the tick to let go. It’s also why you shouldn’t pull the tick side-to-side or attempt to squish it)
- After it’s removed, wash the site extremely thoroughly with soap and water, and follow up antiseptic for disinfection
Mainely Ticks, which can help you with identification of ticks, suggests paying attention to these details during removal:
- The date, town and state, and time the tick was removed
- The details (age, gender, species) of the host that the tick attached to – human or animal
- The part of the body that the tick was attached to
- The positive identification of the tick species
- The presence of a rash or other symptoms
While the bulls-eye rash is thought to be the absolute telltale sign of Lyme disease, it’s not guaranteed that infected people will develop a rash. Other common symptoms are flu-like ailments, fatigue, and/or joint pain and swelling. If Lyme disease is untreated, it can intensify in severity even months to years later – including more serious neurological and heart problems.
If you spot a tick on you, and it’s engorged, call your physician immediately – especially if it’s a deer tick. You’ll likely undergo a blood test to determine if Lyme antibodies exist – although they take about 4-6 weeks after infection to develop. If the blood test is positive (or the doctor still determines your illness is Lyme disease), they will prescribe a course (2-3 weeks) of the Doxycycline antibiotic.
Yard protection is a must for tick control!
Lucas Residential offers complete programs for tick pest control around your home and business. Lucas Mosquito & Tick Control not only controls the adult populations of both these pests, but a licensed pesticide applicator will review your property to identify any mosquito or tick problem areas that may be contributing to their presence.
If you want to ensure that professional tick control is also safe for your children and pets, Lucas has that covered. Lucas uses Pyrethrum – a natural insecticide made from the dried flower heads of Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium and Chrysanthemum coccineum. While it’s extremely effective for controlling tick infestations and mosquito populations, it’s also at a very low toxicity – safe for your loved ones and animals.
Image Source: Mainely Ticks
Beem, Edgar Allen. “Tick Check.” Down East Magazine. August 2013. http://www.downeast.com/tick-check/