May Is Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Month – Eastern Shore Health District Offers Tick Prevention Tips
(ACCOMAC, Va.)— The Eastern Shore Health District reminds residents of Accomack and Northampton Counties to protect themselves, their children, and their pets from ticks as the weather warms up and they are spending more time outdoors. The mild winter weather may result in a larger tick population than average.
Three types of ticks are well established on the Eastern Shore: the Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum), the Blacklegged Tick or Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis), and the Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis). Each can transmit zoonotic diseases that affect both humans and other mammals like dogs and horses. The primary diseases that are diagnosed on the Eastern Shore are Lyme Disease (Blacklegged Tick only), Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis (Lone Star Tick and Dog Tick), Ehrlichiosis (Lone Star Tick and Dog Tick), and Anaplasmosis (Blacklegged Tick).
Lyme disease is by far the most commonly reported vector-borne illness (disease transmitted to humans by ticks, mosquitoes or fleas) in the Virginia. The typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and a large, expanding skin rash that may have a bull’s-eye appearance (however the rash is not always seen). If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Anyone who develops a fever or a rash after being bitten by a tick or spending time in tick-infested areas should seek prompt medical care. Most patients with Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks’ of antibiotics, especially if treated early.
Other tick-borne diseases that have also been reported on the Eastern Shore of Virginia include Rickettsial Spotted Fevers, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Bartonella. Co-infections are also possible from one tick bite, as ticks are able to be infected with more than one disease at a time.
Prevention of tick bites is the most effective way to avoid tick-borne illnesses. To prevent tick bites the Eastern Shore Health District recommends the following:
● Avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter and walk in the center of trails when hiking.
● Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours. Parents should apply repellent to children; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends products with up to 30 percent DEET for kids. Always follow product instructions!
● Use products that contain permethrin to pre-treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents or look for clothing pre-treated with permethrin.
● Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find crawling ticks before they bite you.
● Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon returning indoors. Parents should help children check thoroughly for ticks. Remove any ticks right away.
● Eastern Shore residents can make their yards less attractive to ticks with the following recommendations:
1. Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
2. Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
3. Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.
4. Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on).
5. Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
6. Remove any old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.
For more information about tick-borne diseases in Virginia, please go visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/DEE/Vectorborne/ on the Virginia Department of Health website or http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases/ at the Centers for Disease Control website.