May 22, 2013
04:59 PMThe Connecticut Story
Tick Season Once Again in Connecticut
Now that warm weather has finally returned to Connecticut, that also means the re-emergence of everyone's least-favorite parasites: ticks.
Yes, from now until November, we need to be on watch for the tiny bloodsucking creatures, which attach themselves to us and our pets to feed. As most of us know from firsthand experience, they are commonly accrued when coming into contact with high grass, shrubbery, overgrown brush or wooded areas. Deer ticks (such as the fetching creature at left) are among the most common, and at this time of year are primarily in the nymph stage, which means they are the size of a pinhead and often difficult to spot.
Vigilance is key in dealing with ticks, as they are very small and often hard to detect. It's recommended that you check for ticks after every outdoor experience.
Tick-borne diseases found in Connecticut include babesiosis (which affects red blood cells), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (a flu-like malady that can be fatal if left untreated) and most notoriously, Lyme disease—a nasty affliction that includes fever, joint and muscle pain, headache, chills, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes, and yes, is named for our own Lyme, Connecticut, where the disease was first formally identified. Connecticut is regularly at the top of the Center for Disease Control's list of state's affected by tick-borne illnesses, in particular Lyme disease; last year the state had 1,654 confirmed cases and another 1004 probable cases.
Like with anything health-related, prevention is key. The Department of Public Health [DPH] offers the following suggestions to help prevent tick bites:
- Avoid tall grass and over-grown, brushy areas.
- When hiking in wooded areas, stay in the middle of trails.
- Consider using insect repellent, according to manufacturer's instructions.
- Tuck pant leg into socks, wear long-sleeved shirts, and closed shoes.
- Wear light-colored clothing to see the ticks easier for removal.
- When returning indoors, shower using a wash cloth or puff to remove any unattached ticks.
- Examine yourself, children, and pets for ticks when returning indoors.
- Talk to your veterinarian to find out how to protect your pets from tick bites.
If you do find that you have a tick attached to yourself, a loved one or a pet, the DPH recommends that you remove it quickly as possible, as the sooner it is gone, the lesser the chances of tick-borne infection. They suggest using tweezers and grasping the tick mouth parts as close to the skin as possible and pulling it out out with steady pressure—don't yank it out or crush the body as it may contain infectious fluids. Then wash the area and watch it to see if there's any indication of infection such as the tell-tale bull's eye rash that is common with Lyme disease.
Ticks can be submitted for Lyme disease testing to your local health department, who then will send it to the Connecticut Agricultural Station for a positive determination.
Like everything else, there's even an app for taking tick precautions, courtesy of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at Yale University.
For more information regarding dealing with ticks, visit the Connecticut Department of Public Health.