When the warm spring weather sets in, we start spending more time outdoors, doing yard work, fishing, hunting, gardening, camping, hiking, or taking the dog for a long walk in a local park.
This puts us and our pets at risk of contracting diseases transmitted by ticks.
All it takes is a walk in the woods, a walk among the chest-high weeds and dried grasses at the edge of the wood, shedding low hanging tree limbs or trimming the strings around homes and outbuildings. Almost anywhere in rural Kentucky or along the suburban/rural frontage where there are white-tailed deer, and large numbers of small mammals, ticks are present.
Here is some of the latest information on tick-borne diseases:
• Lyme disease It made all the headlines because it’s so widespread, with such a large number of cases.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists at least 13 other diseases transmitted by ticks, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia (rabbit fever), anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Southern tick-associated rash, and tularemia. alpha-gal, babesiosis, and Poisin’s virus, which can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.
Lyme is caused by the bacterium Borrelia, which is transmitted by the bites of infected ticks of the genus Ixodes. The black tick, Ixodes scapularis, is the main vector.
The Blacklegged Tick is distinctive in colour, with a reddish-orange body, black shield and dark black legs. One of the first labels to come out in the spring, the Blacklegged Tick brand has been expanding its reach for the past 20 years.
They find a capillary tube close to the surface of the skin, which painlessly penetrates the skin and begins to absorb blood. They must be attached to the host for at least 36 hours to transmit disease.
Lyme disease was first diagnosed in 1975 in Lyme, Connecticut, with a bacteria that was later described in 1981 by the late American scientist Willie Burgdorfer.
According to an article posted on www.lymedisease.org, about 60 percent of Lyme disease cases occur in the northeastern United States, but Lyme is now present in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and the number of cases has been rising nationwide in the United States. last decade.
The CDC said there is no way to know exactly how many people get Lyme disease because it is often misdiagnosed (confused with other diseases), and underreported, especially over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. .
Recent estimates based on insurance records indicate that approximately 476,000 Americans are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease annually. In Kentucky, there were 94 confirmed cases of Lyme disease between 2010 and 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but there are many more suspected or unreported cases.
• alpha gal syndrome (AGS) is transmitted primarily by Lone Star Tick.
Aggressive small tick, Lone Star tick, Amblyomma americanum, is reddish-brown in color. The adult female features a silver-yellow spot on her back.
A high percentage of affected people may develop a mild to severe allergic reaction that may include anaphylaxis, after eating red meat, including beef, pork, lamb, and wild game (deer, elk, bear).
According to a posting on the Mayo Clinic website, the bite of a Lone Star Tick transfers a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into a person’s body that triggers an immune system reaction that results in allergic reactions.
AGS was first described in 2009 but researchers now believe the disease has been around for decades.
Kentucky is in the middle of the Lone Star Tick Range, which stretches from central Texas, north to eastern Nebraska and Iowa, east to southern Maine, south to Florida and along the Gulf Coast.
Kentucky, and all border states, are in the area with the highest rates of AGS diagnosed.
Symptoms of tick-borne diseases
Symptoms of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses mimic a wide range of virus-related illnesses and include sudden fever, rash, severe headache, muscle or joint pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Sometimes a red rash develops around the site where the tick was stuck.
Tick-borne illnesses can be life-altering and include permanent nerve damage, extreme fatigue, memory loss, and debilitating headaches.
Ticks are found throughout Kentucky, and inhabit a wide variety of landscape types including woodlands, overgrown fields, farmland, riverwalks, and hedgerows.
If you are going abroad in tick country, a good preventative measure is to treat clothes, shoes, and bags with the insecticide permethrin.
Spray your clothes and equipment and then hang them outside to dry on a clothesline. Permethrin should not be applied directly to the skin.
Famous and effective brand Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent. The active ingredient, permethrin, is a synthetic molecule similar to pyrethrum, which is taken from the chrysanthemum flower. A 9-ounce spray mist can be sold for about $11.
A hot, soapy shower, a quick body check and a clean set of clothes is always a good idea after spending time outdoors in retail country.
Maintaining your yard, the land around your buildings and adjacent fields, will discourage ticks.
Keep your pets safe too
If you protect your dog from ticks, you protect your family, too. This is because family pets, and hunting dogs with household privileges, can bring ticks indoors, on carpets, furniture, and bedding.
Dogs on the farm or rural suburbs are especially vulnerable to picking up ticks and contracting a tick-borne disease.
Protect your dog once winter is over. Your vet is a good source of information about tick prevention treatment options, which include monthly pills, chews, or liquids applied directly to your dog’s skin, back, and between the shoulders.
If you find a engorged tick on your dog, it won’t be long before you see symptoms of a tick-borne illness if the tick is a vector.
Dogs develop fever, stop feeling down, lose their appetite, and grow lethargic. A regimen of daily antibiotics will kill the bacteria.
Dogs get more tick-borne diseases than humans, and complete recovery in dogs is much higher than in humans. In Lyme disease specifically, there are many more confirmed cases in dogs than in humans in Kentucky.
In 2020, the Companion Animal Parasites Council (CAPC) reported that Kentucky had 1,715 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in dogs in 2019, 5149 confirmed cases of erythrocytes and 213 confirmed cases of anaplasmosis, all transmitted by ticks.
Serious ticks. Keep your family and pets safe. Be vigil after outdoor trips between now and the onset of cold weather this fall.