This summer could be the worst on record for tick diseases, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns. The problem could be especially bad for the South and Southwest regions of the United States, where mild winters have failed to kill off much of the tick population.
An increase in tick infestations means more problems than just Lyme Disease. Ticks can carry a variety of diseases, causing anything from muscle aches to nausea. In severe cases, however, people can die from complications of tick bites. To say nothing of the threat to dogs.
Officials are warning everyone to be aware of the presence of ticks as the summer carries on. The problem multiplies as people spend more time outside, increasing the odds of contracting tick diseases.
The population increase is on account of the relatively mild winter in the United States this year, which allowed for continued breeding of ticks during months where they are typically dormant.
“With the mild winter they are going to be more abundant,” Fort Worth Pest and Termite Services president Rodney Beaman said.
Beaman said his primary concern in North Texas would be for trail riders or runners, people who walk their dogs in the woods or those who hike or camp. He, and others, advise people who spend time in tall grass or in the woods check themselves for ticks as soon as they can.
Wired reports that the Powassan virus (POW for short) is another disease spread by deer ticks, often in the northeast. It causes the brain to swell, and there is no effective treatment.
With no treatment available, half of all people who contract the virus suffer permanent brain damage; 10 percent die. And while POW is nowhere near as prevalent as that other tick-borne summer scourge—Lyme—it is starting to show up more often.
Scientists estimate that POW is only prevalent in about 4 percent of deer ticks, way lower than the 30 to 40 percent prevalence of Lyme disease. But here’s the thing. Lyme disease, which is caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium, takes about 48 hours to transmit; if you find a tick on your body and remove it within a day or two, you can usually escape a Lyme infection. POW, on the other hand, goes from the tick’s body, through its saliva, and into your bloodstream within a few minutes of a bite. So even though it’s not in many ticks, if the right one gets you, there’s not much you can do.
“Lone Star tick carries ehrlichiosis,” he says, which causes “mild body aches or severe fever. It’s not deadly, but it’s unpleasant. We don’t know what the long-term problems are. Rocky Mountain Fever is also tick-carried. It’s not common, but it is found here.”
The Morning News also suggests the best way to remove ticks is not with vaseline or nail polish, as many suggest. Instead, use the old standby: tweezers.
*Snatch the tick as close as possible to the skin’s surface.
*Pull upward using steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking, which could cause mouth pieces to stay inside. If they do, and you can’t get them out, don’t panic. Just leave it be, and let the skin heal.
*After it’s out, clean your skin with rubbing alcohol, soap and water, or an iodine scrub.
*If the tick is still alive, refrain from crushing it between your fingers. Instead, get satisfaction by submerging it in alcohol, putting it in a sealed container or plastic bag, or flushing it down the toilet.