Summer may be over but there is still plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors. As you head out, it is important to remember to take preventive measures against ticks.
Ticks are arachnids, relatives of spiders that live in wooded areas, brushy fields, along trails and around homes. They are also parasites that survive by feeding on the blood of animal hosts, including humans. Through their feeding, ticks can significantly impact the quality of life and health of humans and pets. Most importantly, some species of ticks may transmit diseases, which can result in mild to serious illness or death. Proper protection from ticks and prompt removal are crucial to preventing infection.
Preventing Tick-borne Diseases
Tick-borne diseases can be transmitted only by the bite of an infected tick. An infected animal or person cannot pass the infection on to another animal or person. Ticks normally become infected by taking a blood meal from an infected animal. Use caution when removing ticks from pets and be sure to check yourself and loved ones after spending time in ticks’ habitat.
Ohio has seen a significant increase in the black-legged tick populations in recent years. Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the only known vector of Lyme disease in the eastern U.S. Deer ticks are somewhat smaller and darker than our other important tick species and the adults are active during the late fall – early spring, when the other species are dormant.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is caused by a bacteria carried primarily by the American dog tick. Not all ticks are infected and an infected tick is usually attached to the host for four to six hours before it transmits disease. Adult American dog ticks look for large hosts such as dogs, but they will also feed on humans. They are the most common ticks in Ohio.
The risk of exposure to ticks and disease can be reduced by using these precautions:
- Avoid tick-infested areas (i.e. wooded or weedy areas).
- If exposure is unavoidable, tuck pants into sock tops or boots.
- Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to find crawling ticks.
- Use repellents and follow label instructions carefully.
- Check children for ticks frequently.
- Use caution when handling ticks and dispose of properly.
- Dogs can become infected with tick-borne diseases.
- Dogs should be kept in well-mowed areas during tick season (April-September).
- Treatments are available to control ticks on dogs. Always follow label instructions.
- Inspect dogs for ticks every day. Ticks should be handled with caution and disposed of safely.
- Keep yard and outdoor play areas well mowed to discourage tick infestation.
- If a tick is attached, remove it as soon as possible; this reduces your risk of infection.
- Shield fingers with a paper towel or use tweezers. Grasp the tick close to the skin. With steady pressure, pull the tick straight up and out.
- Do not twist or jerk the tick. This may cause the mouth parts to be left in the skin.
- Do not crush or puncture the tick.
- Do not use a flame or cigarette to remove a tick. This may cause the tick to burst and increase disease risk.
After removing a tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands with soap and water.
Three Ticks of Public Health Importance
The following spot identification cards will assist in properly indentifying any ticks found on you or your pet.