American Heart Assoc.

Opinion: Beware the attack of the ticks

by | Aug 16, 2018 | Opinion

It’s the height of summer, a time of year when we are most vulnerable to insect-borne diseases. It’s a threat that will still be with us well into the Fall. Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control [CDC], warns that “a growing list of diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea have confronted the U.S. in recent years, making a lot of people sick.”

Tick attacks can be particularly nasty for seniors, says Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens. “They can cause several different illnesses, most notably Lyme disease. All of these sicknesses can have harsh symptoms but they rarely result in death, although the elderly have weaker immune systems and are therefore more susceptible.”

According to the CDC the symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, rash, facial paralysis and arthritis and can last up to six months. The Interim Healthcare Web site notes that these ”symptoms can be harsh but slow to set in – a person could be infected with Lyme disease for a full month with nothing but a small rash at the bite location before more serious symptoms set in. Later stage Lyme can include increased rashes, partial facial paralysis, arthritis and joint pain, irregular heartbeat, brain and spinal cord swelling, nerve pain and short-term memory loss.”

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. Weber says, “it is the blacklegged tick and the western blacklegged tick that are the culprits. They are not common in all 50 states. In fact, up until about 20 years, they were common only in the Northeastern United States. But two decades later they can be found in 1,531 counties spread across 43 states.  Rebecca Eisen, a research biologist at the CDC, tells us that blacklegged ticks inhabit the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central regions of the United States, and the western blacklegged tick are found along the Pacific Coast.”

Weber says he did some research and found that you can tell the difference between the blacklegged and the common dog tick [which is not known to spread disease] by the physical differences between the two. The blacklegged tick is much smaller than the dog tick and the dog tick has white markings on its back.

The AMAC chief also suggests that you do not panic if you find a tick has attached itself to your body; you’ve got up to 24 hours before an infection can set in. So you have time to get help in removing it at an ER, for example. “Whatever you do, don’t try to squeeze it out or use a lit cigarette to coax it out. If you can’t get medical help, use tweezers to grip it as close as possible to its mouth to remove.”

And, now it is reported that a new species of tick, the “Longhorned Tick” has recently been identified in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas. According to one report, “while they have been known to transmit disease to humans in other parts of the world, health officials say more research is needed to determine whether that’s possible in the U.S.”

To prevent tick bites, the CDC suggests that you:

  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. And that you,
  •  Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. EPA’s helpful search tool can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions.

From Staff Reports • [email protected]

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American Heart Assoc.

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