Tick Season is Here Again-With More Diseases Than Ever!

Most people on the Cape are familiar with Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis/Erlichiosis, and Babesiosis, but have you heard of Borrelia miyamotoi or Powassan virus?  The now well known black legged deer ticks can also carry these diseases.

Scapularis, Ixodes, Insect, Tick, Deer

In general, adult ticks are approximately the size of a sesame seed and nymphal ticks are approximately the size of a poppy seed.
Borrelia miyamotoi is a spiral shaped bacterium carried by deer ticks (which are active any time temperatures are above freezing).  Nymphs are most active from May to July and adults are more active in the fall and spring. Ticks carrying miyamotoi have been found in Sandwich.  Symptoms of a miyamotoi infection are fever, headache, and muscle aches.  Treatment is 2 weeks on the antibiotic doxycycline, which is also used to treat Lyme disease.http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1215469

Powassan virus has been identified in patients in Massachusetts.  While it is generally accepted that a tick must be attached to a person for at least 24 hours to spread  infection, this virus seems to infect people in a shorter period of time.  Symptoms can occur from 1 week to 1 month after a tick bite.  As with other tick borne diseases, some people never become ill while others can have illness such as inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, difficulty speaking and seizures.  Treatment is supportive.  http://www.cdc.gov/powassan/

How can you protect yourself?  Ticks live in wooded, brush filled, and grassy areas, so if you are in these areas here are some things you can do:

1.  Put deet on skin exposed areas (not on face or palms of hands).  The University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter website warns:

Repellents play an integral part in your personal protection strategy. Repellents containing DEET are not sufficient to protect against tick bites. DEET only repels ticks to areas where they could bite and even that little protection does not last long. PERMETHRIN kills ticks on contact. Clothing only repellents that contain Permethrin are very effective and provide long-lasting protection. The best protection you can achieve is by using a repellent that contains Permethrin on your clothes and one that contains DEET for your skin.

2.  Spray permethrin on clothes and boots/shoes

Watch videos about applying clothing-only repellent and how well Permethrin treated clothing repels and kills ticks.

3. Wear light colored long pants and long sleeves, tuck pants into socks or boots.

4.  Do a body check when you go indoors

5.  Treat pets with tick repellants

6.  Have a 3 foot tick free perimeter around your yard   http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/id/epidemiology/ticks/, http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/protect_your_yard

If you do find a tick on yourself, use tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up.  After removal clean the skin with alcohol and put an antibiotic cream on the area.

clipart style image showing the proper removal of a tick using a pair of tweezers

Helpful Hint

icon of a tickAvoid 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.

Go on tickreport.com if you want to send your tick to U. Mass. for testing