Tick season is here: tips to avoid, test ticks

During spring, ticks transform from larva to nymph with only one catch … the need for a blood meal.

Typically, ticks live in brush close to the ground and engage in opportunistic feeding on small mammals, birds and sometimes, humans. Although most ticks are not infected with human diseases, some ticks can carry such diseases as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and viral diseases.

The transmission of lyme disease peaks during the months of May to August, however, Jennifer Steele, U.S. European Command infectious disease subject matter expert, advised that ticks have been out since February this year.

Disease transmission occurs during the nymph stage when ticks are the size of a poppy seed. Their incredibly small size allows delivery of a painless bite to feed. Feeding is required for at least 24 hours to transmit lyme disease to humans via infected saliva. Symptoms of lyme disease typically develop one to two weeks after infection. Early symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and depression. Late symptoms include arthritis, hand pain, foot pain and swelling of the brain. These occur when patients fail to receive prompt antibiotic treatment.

A characteristic bull’s-eye skin rash occurs in 80 percent of people. The easiest way to prevent tick bites is to avoid wooded areas, leaf litter, high grass, weeds and brush, however, since this is not always possible, here are some tips to avoid tick bites:

  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin
  • Wear protective clothing with long sleeves, long pants, a hat. Tuck pants into socks or boots.
  • Treat socks and pants with permethrin-containing insecticide.
  • Wear light-colored clothing for easy visualization of ticks

Always inspect the entire body for ticks after outdoor activities and remove ticks immediately by pulling them straight out with tweezers. Ticks prefer soft skin and hairy areas. Conduct a self/buddy check behind ears and knees, hair line, underarms, and between fingers and toes.

The Army Public Health Center (Provisional) provides a tick identification and testing service for DOD health clinics. This service is known as the DOD Human Tick Test Kit Program, and it serves as a “first alert” for tick-bite patients and their health care providers.

The Stuttgart Health Clinic lab section will submit to APHC if people bring in their tick. To contact the health clinic, call civ. 06371-9464-2900 or visit http://rhce.amedd.army.mil/stuttgart.

Additional information at http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/healthtopics/vectors/ticks/Pages/ixodes-ricinus.aspx.