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These bugs bite: Protect yourself and your pets against ticks


Tue, Apr 16th 2024 02:10 pm

Erie County Department of Health recommends ways to reduce risk of tick-borne illnesses

Submitted by the Erie County Department of Health

Imagine a monster that swells to three times its normal size as it feasts on human and animal blood. It sounds like something out of a horror movie, but it describes what happens when a tick attaches itself to its victim’s skin. Even worse, as the tick hangs on, it can transmit bacteria that can cause severe illness.

Warmer weather means many people will spend more time outdoors, where ticks are waiting. The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is sharing recommendations to prevent tick bites and reduce the risks for tick-borne illnesses. Residents can start by being aggressive about tick control in spaces like yards and lawns.

√ Mow, clear and remove: Regularly remove grass, leaves and debris and keep woodpiles stacked neatly away from the house, off the ground if possible

√ Deer-proof your lawn: Remove plants that attract deer to discourage them from entering your lawn and bringing ticks

√ Protect play areas: Keep playgrounds, sandboxes, benches and sitting areas away from shrubs, buses and vegetation

√ Tick control: Tick control can be applied by a homeowner or professional pest control expert; follow label directions.

“Ticks seek out habitats where they can thrive, and as they expand to new areas – like Erie County – they can introduce new diseases,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are by far the most common in our local tick population, which is a major change from just a decade ago.”

Lyme disease – which can affect humans and dogs – is most commonly associated with tick bites, but it is not the only illness that ticks can transmit. A New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) vectorborne disease program tests ticks for the presence of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites. Last fall, NYSDOH identified ticks in upstate New York that tested positive for the agents that cause anaplasmosis, B. miyamotoi relapsing fever, Powassan encephalitis and babesiosis. These diseases are rare in humans, but have the potential to cause severe and persistent illness.

When you are outside

√ Cover skin and use repellents: Wear long sleeves and long, light-colored pants; tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks. Repel ticks on exposed skin with repellent that contains 20% or more DEET, picaridin or IR3535. Do not use on children younger than 2 months. Use according to instructions on the label. Treat clothing, socks, shoes, boots and camping gear with products that contain permethrin; do not use this on skin. It can remain protective through several washings. Pretreated clothing is available and may be protective longer.

√ Avoid direct contact with ticks.

√ Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

√ Walk in the center of trails: Stay on cleared trails when walking or hiking, and avoid the edge habitat where ticks are likely to be.

√ Talk to your veterinarian about effective tick control options.

√ Check yourself, kids and animals for ticks after going outside.

√ Do not let pets wander or spend time in brush or wooded areas. They can bring ticks inside and expose humans or other animals to tick bites and tickborne infections.

Find and Remove Ticks from Skin

√ Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.

√ Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.

√ Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats and day packs.

√ Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks effectively. If the clothes cannot be washed in hot water, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes. The clothes should be warm and completely dry.

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