FRANKFORT, Ky. (4/25/13) – They’re Back! Yeah, those nasty little critters that like to latch on and spread their diseases. Perhaps, due to the mild winter we’ve had this year, the ticks are already multiplying in considerable amounts.
Over the last ten years, the tick population has been steadily growing, and it’s not just more ticks. Its more ticks in more places. There are many reasons why ticks and their diseases are spreading ; warmer winters, suburbanization, increase in white-tail deer, migratory birds that carry ticks to new areas, the use of fewer insecticides, and the movement towards preservation of open spaces and replanting of trees. The winters in the United States have been much milder than they were over 20 years ago and without those long harsh winters, the ticks are not dying off. Several ticks that were once abundant in the South have now migrated to the North. The temperatures have to be at least 10 Degrees Fahrenheit and stay that way for a while in order for a tick to die. Temperatures that range over 40 Degrees Fahrenheit, ticks will become active. In some cases, some ticks are just not bothered by the cold at all. Even in areas that the snow is sufficient, the snow can serve as a blanket. Since there has been a decrease in mass sprayings of insecticides and preservation of open spaces, ticks are a major cause of vector-borne diseases in the United States which can be very troublesome. Ticks have spread through about half the country and in some states they have overlapped.
Here in Kentucky, the American Dog, Lone Star, and the Blacklegged Ticks are the ones to watch out for. The American Dog Tick is the most commonly encountered by humans. As an adult, the ticks can get as large as a watermelon seed. As its name suggests, its mostly found on our pets and is the primary vector of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which can be seriously life-threatening if left unattended. The Lone Star Tick is the only tick other than the American Dog tick to be encountered by humans in Kentucky. It is similar in size and appearance as the American Dog. However, the adult females have a large white dot on their dorsal side. They are also known as “seed ticks” or “turkey ticks” and are not associated with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme Disease but carry other diseases. The Blacklegged Tick, sometimes called a “deer tick” are smaller than both the American Dog and Lone Star Ticks. Fully grown, they are about the size of a sesame seed. This tick is known to spread Lyme Disease to humans.
There are ways you can protect yourself this year while you are enjoying your outdoor activities. To reduce tick exposure, stay on clear paths to avoid tall grass and weeds. You can wear long pants, spray insect repellant and inspect your body frequently. If you have a tick latched on, the easiest way to remove it would be to use a pair of tweezers. You would place the tweezers just behind the point of attachment and pull. If you are to notice any flu-like symptoms, see a physician as soon as possible.
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