As summer approaches and we begin to plan our warm weather adventures, don't forget the bug spray! Though not big in size, ticks are one of the most dangerous insects to human beings because of the harmful diseases they can transmit.
The most well-known disease spread by ticks is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected black legged tick. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash that typically looks like a bullseye. If left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the heart, joints, and nervous system.
Another disease that has recently been acknowledged in the news for local cases is the Powassan virus, which is also transmitted through the bite of an infected black legged tick. Most cases have been found in the northeastern United States and the Great Lakes Regions. Symptoms of the Powassan virus include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord), fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and other flu like symptoms. However, some people may never show any symptoms of the virus.
There is no cure for either of these tick-related diseases; however, there are some treatments available for Lyme disease, including antibiotic therapy. The best way to prevent Lyme disease, Powassan, and other tick-related diseases is through prevention. While tick prevention measures should be taken year round, be extra vigilant during the warmer months (April-September) when they are most active. Below are some ways to prevent against tick bites:
• Be sure to use insect repellents containing DEET. Avoid sprays that have a high concentration of DEET due to other health effects they may cause. A safe amount of DEET in a product ranges from about 25-30%.
• Treat outdoor/camping equipment with permethrin, which kills ticks.
• Wear light colored clothing to make ticks more visible.
• Wear long sleeves and pants, and tuck pants into boots and seal with tape.
• When returning indoors, check your skin and clothing for ticks and throw your clothing in the dryer for about 10 minutes on high heat to kill any ticks that may be attached.
• Remove ticks attached to the skin right away by pulling at their heads, using a tick removal tool or tweezers.
The best way to fend off these tiny critters is to make sure you are informed and prepared! Check out our selection of tick and insect repellants and keep yourself safe this season.
For more information on ticks and tickborne diseases, please visit the CDC's official website.