(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — As the temperatures continue to get warmer in the spring, remember tick activity is also increasing.
Tick season in Pennsylvania typically begins in April and can last until as late as October.
Tickborne transmission mainly occurs in parts of the Northeast and upper Midwest, and usually peaks during the warm months, according to the CDC.
The PA Tick Research Lab is reporting for the week of March 31 to April 7 that activity is nearing “high” for blacklegged ticks (deer ticks). Activity for American dog ticks (adult American dog ticks) is listed as “mild,” while activity for lone star ticks (adult and nymph lone star ticks) is listed as “low.” Activity for blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) for nymph and larval ticks is between “mild” and “low.”
The blacklegged tick is found in the eastern half of the United States. Adult ticks can be found in forest edge habitats and in the underlying layer of vegetation throughout winter when temperatures are above freezing.
The greatest risk of being bitten is in the spring, summer and fall.
In the spring and summer, ticks are most active in the early morning once the dew burns off. In the fall and winter, ticks are most active in the afternoon when temperatures rise above 40 degrees.
Tickborne disease cases in the United States increased 25% from 2011 to 2019, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a rare disease now spreading in the U.S. Northeast — Babesiosis.
Lyme Disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. It is spread through the bite of infected ticks.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reports Pennsylvania ranks number one in the country for reported Lyme Disease cases.
Lyme Disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected Blacklegged ticks.
Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
Ticks can attach to any part of the human body, but they must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme Disease bacterium can be transmitted.
Babesiosis is a tickborne infection that has been identified as an emerging infection of concern in Pennsylvania, according to the CDC.
Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells and are spread by the Blacklegged tick in Pennsylvania.
Babesia infection can range from asymptomatic to life threatening. Most infections cause fever, chills, sweats, and fatigue.
Babesiosis can be a severe, life-threatening disease, particularly in people who do not have a spleen; have a weak immune system (such as cancer, lymphoma, or AIDS); have other serious health conditions (such as liver or kidney disease); or are elderly.
Symptoms, if any, can start within a week or so. They usually develop within a few weeks or months, sometimes longer.
Like Lyme Disease, the tick needs to be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more to be able to transmit the parasite.
The CDC reports the Pa. Department of Health has seen a 20-fold increase in the past 12 years in reports of Babesiosis from healthcare providers that elect to report cases.
The Deer Tick Virus, which is a type of Powassan virus, is rare in the United States, but the state DEP reports positive cases have increased in recent years. It is spread to people primarily by bites from infected ticks and does not spread person-to-person.
Powassan virus can be transmitted from tick to human in as little as 15 minutes after a bite occurs, while other tickborne diseases, such as Lyme Disease, take much longer to cause infection.
The CDC reports most cases in the United States occur in the northeast and Great Lakes regions from late spring through mid-fall when ticks are most active.
There are no vaccines to prevent or medicines to treat Powassan viruses.
Initial symptoms of a DTV infection can include fever, headache, vomiting and weakness. Some people who are infected with DTV experience no symptoms, so infection can go undetected.
Those who exhibit severe disease from Deer Tick Virus can experience encephalitis or meningitis and require hospitalization, with symptoms including confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking or seizures; 91% of patients treated for DTV infections develop severe neuroinvasive disease; 12% of people with severe disease have died; and approximately half of survivors of severe disease have suffered long-term health impacts.
Tips from PA DOH on staying safe while outdoors:
- Use insect repellent containing low concentrations (10% to 30%) of diethyltoluamide (DEET) on clothing and exposed skin;
- Apply DEET sparingly on exposed skin. Do not apply to the face. Do not use under clothing
- Do not use DEET on the hands of young children. Avoid applying to areas around the eyes and mouth;
- Do not use DEET over cuts, wounds or irritated skin. Wash treated skin with soap and water after returning indoors, and wash treated clothing;
- Avoid spraying in enclosed areas. Do not use DEET near food;
- Avoid tick-infested areas;
- Wear light colored clothing so ticks can be spotted more easily;
- Tuck pant legs into socks or boots, and shirts into pants;
- Tape the areas where pants and socks meet;
- Wear a hat, long sleeved shirt, and long pants for added protection;
- Walk in the center of trails to avoid overhanging brush; and
- Check yourself, family members and pets for ticks after leaving potentially tick infested areas and promptly remove any ticks detected.
What to do if you find a tick:
- If you find a tick attached to your skin, there is no need to panic. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively. Prompt and proper tick removal is very important for preventing possible disease transmission.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers and protect your fingers with a tissue, paper towel, or latex gloves. Avoid removing ticks with your bare hands.
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure.
- Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible; do not wait for it to detach.