NDSU Extension - Mercer County

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Tick Season is Here

ticks, deer tick, dog tick, lyme disease

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

With warmer spring weather, ticks are starting to get active and looking for hosts to feed on. Two common ticks in North Dakota include the smaller black legged tick (or deer tick), Ixodes scapularis, and the larger dog ticks, Dermacentor variabilis. Ixodes scapularis is the tick species that vectors Lyme disease. Ticks can be a significant threat to anyone’s health if you enjoy hiking, camping, hunting, playing or working outside in undisturbed grassy or wooded areas.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector borne illness in the United States. In 2015, it was the sixth most common Nationally Notifiable Disease and about 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year – about 10 times as many as are officially reported.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Symptoms of Lyme disease includes: Bull’s eye rash, headache, fever and fatigue. In a worst case scenario, infections can cause arthritic joints, and affect the nervous system causing facial paralysis, and spinal cord, brain or heart problems. Lyme disease must be treated immediately with antibiotics. It can take 2 to 3 weeks to recovery if treated early. The later you wait for treatment; your symptoms will become more severe and more difficult to cure. For more information, please see the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/Lyme/

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following strategies for preventing tick bites:

  • Minimizing direct contact with ticks by avoiding woody and high grass areas and walking in center of trails, if possible. Ticks are most active in May through August in North Dakota.
  • Use repellent with 20-30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing. This should provide several hours of protection.
  • If you do find a tick on yourself or a family member, be sure to stay calm. It typically takes 36 hours for the bacteria that causes Lyme diseases to travel from the tick gut to its salivary glands and into the host.
  • Quickly find and remove any ticks from body by using a tweezers. Grasp tick close to skin and pull straight up to avoid breaking off the tick’s mouthparts in the skin. Clean bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
  • Inspect yourself every 2-3 hours to find any ticks crawling on you and to remove them before they attach to feed on your blood. Ticks like to hides in hair, behind ears and other areas that may be difficult to inspect.
  • Wash any clothing that you were wearing soon and then dry in high heat for an hour to kill any ticks. Otherwise, ticks can attach to you later after hitchhiking on your clothes into home.
  • Reduce tick habitat near home.
  • Keep lawns mowed around home.
  • Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns, patio or play areas and wooded areas to prevent tick movement.

Source: Janet Knodel, NDSU Extension Entomologist

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