Are Ticks Active in Winter? Orvis News

Are Ticks Active in Winter?

Yes—ticks are active in winter, but their abundance and exploits are tied closely to the temperature. When it’s around the freezing mark, you won’t likely run across ticks when you go hunting or hiking with your dog. But when temps rise just above freezing, ticks will climb a piece of grass in hopes they can latch onto a chipmunk or dog walking past. Letting your guard down against ticks once the cooler weather arrives is a mistake. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and your dog from the reviled, blood-sucking critters through the winter:

Understanding Ticks

Ticks are parasitic arthropods (invertebrates with exoskeletons) that feed on the blood of host animals, such as mice, deer, cattle, birds, and humans. They are usually found on grasses, in underbrush, and in densely wooded areas, where they wait for their next host (aka meal) to stroll by so they can hitch a ride. If you live in an area with large populations of mice, chipmunks, and voles, chances are good you live near large populations of ticks who often feed on these rodents.

There are about 900 species of ticks around the world, with just over 90 tick species found in the US. Only a handful of tick species transmit diseases to humans and dogs, but the ticks of concern are pervasive and their territories are widespread.

Ticks carrying diseases in the US include deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks; these are among the most notorious species, because they transmit Lyme disease. Other tick species that spread diseases to dogs and people include American dog ticks, lone star ticks, western blacklegged ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks, brown dog ticks, and Pacific Coast ticks. The diseases these tick species carry include Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), and ehrlichiosis.

All of these illnesses require treatment to prevent serious, possibly fatal, complications.

Are Ticks Active in Winter?

The risk of tick bites is highest from April through September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The warm months coincide with the highest populations of ticks and the most active stages of a tick’s life cycle, which is two years.

In the winter months, ticks are far less active than they are in spring and summer. But there is still a chance you’ll pass a tick looking to catch a ride and a meal. Depending upon the species, the critters survive the winter months by going dormant under a pile of leaves or burrowing underground, or by riding out the winter on a warm host animal. But when temperatures rise above 35° F or thereabouts, some ticks will emerge from dormancy to search for a new host.

Climate Change and Ticks

With climate change due to global warming, seasonal respites from ticks have become shorter lived and the geography of tick activity is expanding. As the planet warms, northern US states, such as Vermont, North Dakota, and Minnesota, are experiencing an uptick in mild winter temperatures. This means more winter days with temps above 35° F and more days when ticks are active.

Winter Season Tick Bite Prevention

Between 2004 and 2016, the CDC recorded a dramatic increase in illnesses caused by ticks, mosquitos, and fleas. Reported cases of bug- and tick-related illnesses increased from 27,388 in 2004 to 96,075 in 2016. It’s believed the increase is connected with the expanding habitats and increased populations of these bugs.

For those who enjoy hiking, hunting, or exploring the outdoors with their dogs, protection from Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses is a year-round endeavor. Methods of preventing tick bites for you and your dog in winter are exactly the same as in spring and summer, with a few common-sense additions to the list.

Before Going Out:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved tops.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, which makes it easier to spot ticks, especially tiny ticks in the nymph phase.
  • Tuck the cuffs of your pants into your socks.
  • Outfit yourself with specialized clothing treated with permethrin.
  • Use a flea and tick collar on your dog and/or a topical tick treatment.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellent on yourself.

When You’re Out:

  • Stay at the center of well-worn trails, away from leaf piles and underbrush that are common hangouts for ticks in winter.
  • Keep your dog on leash during winter hikes so she can’t run off trail.
  • Frequent hikers know some areas are especially “ticky.” Avoid heavy tick zones whenever possible.
  • Avoid sitting on the ground, especially in rocky areas or near piles of leaves.

When You Get Back:

  • Give your dog a tick check before you go inside the house. Be particularly diligent if you went off trail. If your dog wears a dog coat, check that, too.
  • Check your coat, hat, and scarf for ticks.
  • As an extra precaution, put your outerwear and clothes in the dryer on hot for ten minutes.
  • Take a shower soon after you get home and scan yourself thoroughly for ticks.

If you spot a tick on you or your dog and it hasn’t yet embedded, you can simply lift it off and flush it down the toilet. If you discover an embedded parasite, carefully remove the tick and consider storing it in a glass container until you can get it tested for tick-borne illnesses.

Another effective strategy for tick bite prevention in all seasons is creating a tick-unfriendly zone around your home. This is particularly important when you have an enclosed backyard where your dog spends time playing and exercising year round. Here are steps to take:

  • Keep the woodpile as far from your house as possible, and out of your dog’s usual play area.
  • Keep your grass mowed short.
  • Don’t let leaves or sticks collect near the house.
  • Put up fencing that prevents deer from grazing on your property.
  • Close up small holes around your property—they make appealing dens for rodents, which are tick magnets.

No matter where you explore the outdoors with your dog (Central Park or a national park), or when (July or January), it’s important always to be watchful for ticks. If you make tick prevention part of your daily routine year round, you’ll significantly reduce the risk of a tick biting you or your dog.

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Bracing for the Worst — Range Expansion of the Lone Star Tick in the Northeastern United States

Article

Audio Interview

Ticks and tickborne diseases are increasingly becoming a major health concern for humans, domesticated animals, and livestock. Reported cases of bacterial and protozoan tickborne disease doubled in the United States between 2004 and 2016. More than 90% of the nearly 60,000 cases of nationally notifiable vectorborne diseases reported in 2017 were linked to ticks. As the geographic ranges of multiple tick species continue to expand, invasive tick species are being discovered, new tickborne pathogens are emerging, and coinfections in ticks are surging. Rising global temperatures, ecologic changes, reforestation, and increases in commerce and travel are all important underlying factors influencing the rate and extent of range expansion for ticks and tickborne pathogens.

Both blacklegged (Ixodes scapularis) and lone star (Amblyomma americanum) ticks may be recolonizing areas where they thrived historically, before rampant deforestation and substantial local reduction of key hosts. Linked, in part, to a warming climate, there has been an increase in the number of ticks and associated diseases recorded in the United States and Canada, 1 as well as in Europe.

Persistently warming temperatures may not only lead to the continued geographic range expansion of some ticks but may also extend their active season, thereby altering host availability and abundance; interactions among vectors, pathogens, and hosts; and the prevalence of infection in ticks. A warming climate and other environmental changes will affect abundance, distribution, seasonal activity patterns, and interactions among species differently for various ticks.

Lone star ticks of all life stages (larva, nymph, and adult) feed predominantly on large mammals, especially white-tailed deer. Larvae and nymphs also feed on birds. The resurgence of lone star ticks is linked to increased populations of deer, eastern coyotes, and wild turkeys. In addition to occupying its established range, the lone star tick has expanded into the upper midwestern and northeastern United States and eastern Canada. 2,3 Since lone star ticks can lay several thousand eggs, even the dispersal of a small number of gravid females may be sufficient to establish populations in areas with abundant reproductive hosts, suitable habitats, and conducive temperatures.

Current Populations of Lone Star Ticks (Amblyomma americanum) in the Northeastern United States.

Several human diseases and medical conditions have been attributed to the lone star tick. The map depicts reported and established populations of lone star ticks by county in the northeastern United States between 1971 and 2019. Lone star tick population criteria were based on a literature review, data from the New York State Department of Health passive tick surveillance program (1996–2009; courtesy of Melissa Prusinski and Bryon Backenson), and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station tick testing laboratory (1996–2019). Establishment was defined as more than six ticks of the same life stage identified within a 12-month period or ticks of more than one life stage identified within a 12-month period. (Katherine Dugas and Mallery Breban contributed to this illustration.)

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Lone star ticks have been established in the southeastern United States for well over a century; southern New Jersey was historically recognized as their northern range limit. 4 Some reports of lone star ticks in the northeastern United States and more recently in eastern Canada may not necessarily reflect established breeding populations. 2,3 In the past few decades, however, documented breeding populations have expanded into some parts of the Northeast. Such populations were reported in Suffolk County, New York, as early as 1971; Newport County, Rhode Island, in 1986; Somerset and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey, in 2017; Fairfield and New Haven Counties, Connecticut, in 2018 and 2019, respectively; and Barnstable, Nantucket, and Dukes Counties, Massachusetts, in 2019 (see map ). 2,4,5

Current environmental and climatic conditions favor the establishment and expansion of lone star ticks along the southern New England coast. Moderate maritime climates may be more conducive to the establishment of lone star tick populations than the climates inland, areas where immature ticks may not survive cold winters. Investigations of lone star ticks that can be traced back to an established southern population show that adults can successfully survive the winter in mainland Connecticut, however, and population simulations using current climate conditions suggest that southern Canada is already suitable for their establishment. Although the northward range expansion of the lone star tick is consistent with climate change, a recent study revealed that tick populations in New York are genetically distinct from those occupying the species’ historical range. 6 This finding suggests the possibility of adaptive evolution causing or coinciding with this range expansion and probably favoring pathogen transmission.

It’s unclear how the lone star tick will compete and interact directly or indirectly with other tick species in the Northeast, and the nature of these interactions may vary depending on evolutionary context and changing environmental and climatic conditions. In the southeastern United States, range expansion of the lone star tick coincided with diminished populations of the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis). In New Jersey, populations of the lone star tick have increased in areas where it is endemic while blacklegged tick populations have remained static. 4 Field studies indicate that the lone star tick establishes populations in habitats with specific humidity ranges and that tick abundance is associated with the presence of invasive plants. Areas colonized by invasive plants are frequented by white-tailed deer, a prominent tick host and pathogen reservoir. Lone star ticks will traverse long distances when searching for a mammalian host, thereby accelerating their establishment in new areas. 2

Previously considered aggressive nuisance pests, lone star ticks have now been associated with several human diseases and medical conditions, including tularemia (Francisella tularensis), ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia chaffeensis, E. ewingii, and Panola Mountain Ehrlichia), Heartland virus disease (Heartland virus), southern tick–associated rash illness, or STARI (pathogen unknown), and red meat allergy (alpha-gal syndrome) and are probably also associated with Bourbon virus disease (Bourbon virus). 2 Lone star ticks have also been commonly found to be infected with Rickettsia amblyommatis; however, serologic evidence suggests that humans develop a robust immune response to this bacterium, though it may cause symptoms in some people. Local abundance of lone star ticks and the likelihood of getting multiple bites can be highly irritating, even in the absence of disease transmission.

Although lone star ticks don’t transmit Borrelia burgdorferi — the principal bacterium that causes Lyme disease in North America — symptoms of STARI and early Lyme disease are similar, and STARI may be misdiagnosed as Lyme disease in areas with both lone star ticks and blacklegged ticks. Reported cases of human ehrlichiosis have increased, but this disease is largely underrecognized and underreported. Infections of E. chaffeensis in lone star ticks have been identified in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, but few cases of human disease have been attributed to this pathogen.

Most reports of lone star ticks in the northeastern United States come from tick submissions by the public to passive surveillance programs, which serve as an early warning system. Active surveillance is important for accurate determination of the extent of the northern range expansion of this vector, however. To be effective, active surveillance should be designed specifically for lone star ticks and should include targeting of areas with emerging populations identified by passive surveillance. 3 In many areas of the mid-Atlantic region and emerging areas of the Northeast, coexistence of lone star and blacklegged ticks complicates management strategies. Rodent-targeted approaches used for the control of blacklegged ticks aren’t necessarily effective for lone star ticks, since small mammals aren’t major hosts for immature members of this species. By contrast, application of acaricides to deer by means of four-poster feeding stations has reduced the abundance of host-seeking lone star and blacklegged ticks.

Abundant reproductive hosts, an increasingly hospitable climate, and genetic plasticity of the lone star tick support the continued invasion and establishment of this tick in the Northeast. Increasing population densities and subsequent range expansion, in conjunction with nondiscriminating biting habits and the capacity to transmit diverse pathogens, position the lone star tick as an important emerging health threat to humans, domesticated animals, and wildlife. It’s also plausible that the lone star tick will displace local tick species, transmit different pathogens than those species, and alter the tickborne disease landscape. We believe it’s essential for practitioners and the public to develop a heightened awareness of the health risks associated with emergent tick vectors such as the lone star tick and their potential for changing the dynamics of tickborne diseases in the northeastern United States and elsewhere.

www.nejm.org

2020 Tick Forecast

Ticks can be nuisances (no one wants to have to tweezer a tick off their skin, or their child’s skin, or a pet’s), and due to the diseases they carry, then can be real threats to human health. What’s worse is that while there is a primary time of year when ticks are most active—late spring, summer, and early fall—ticks are reproducing, finding hosts, and acting like pests in general all throughout the year.

As “tick expert” Dr. Thomas Mather says, “Tick season is pretty much every season.”

Still, climatic conditions can make some years worse for ticks than others. Ticks thrive in humidity, so a wet year can boost populations and increase the number of places they can live in. And warm winters and lingering summer heat add weeks of activity for the animals that ticks use as hosts, making them more likely to spread into the areas where humans live.

For 2020, forecasters predict that the warm-weather months in the US will be a bad time for anyone who wants to avoid ticks, with tick populations likely to be larger than usual, and weather conditions likely to put ticks in range of people for much longer than average. And while some regions, most notably the Southeast, may not see more tick activity than usual, most states will experience the warmer, wetter conditions that drive tick populations—and the prospect of tick borne diseases—skyward.

Northeast

The Northeast is ground zero for Lyme disease, and it already has a significant baseline tick population in most years. Forecasters predict that this summer, however, will see spring and summer temperatures around the regional average, and more precipitation than usual, leading to above average tick populations.

Ticks in the
Northeast include:
  • Deer tick (blacklegged tick)
  • Brown dog tick
  • American dog tick
  • Lone star tick

Tick Season

Begins: Mid-April
Ends: Mid- to Late-October

Tick Forecast

above average tick population

Weather Outlook

Temperatures normal, precipitation higher than normal.

2020 Tick Forecast for the Northeast

The Northeast has been getting warmer over the past few decades, and this year is no exception, with the National Weather Service, predicting a 70 to 80 percent chance of summer temperatures ranging above average this spring and summer. At the same time, however, some forecasters, including the National Pest Management Association, are forecasting a summer that’s cooler than recent years and wetter than average. Since humidity is a big driver of tick populations and activity during the warmer months, this means that the northeast will see more tick activity in 2020 across the region, with tick season lasting from around April to mid-to-late October.

Disease Threats

Tick-borne diseases affecting the Northeast include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and tularemia

Southeast

Ticks of the
Southeast include:
  • Deer tick (blacklegged tick)
  • Brown dog tick
  • American dog tick
  • Gulf coast tick
  • Lone star tick

Tick Season

Begins: Early April (or year-round in warmer areas)
Ends: Late October

Tick Forecast

Weather Outlook

2020 Tick Forecast for the Southeast

Ticks love hot weather—warm days and nights mean that their hosts stay active, and mean bigger populations of tick species in general. And the Southeast, including Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, get plenty of hot weather every year. And though you can expect tick activity to decline when nightly temperatures go below 45 degrees for several days at a time (even if the ticks themselves don’t die), in some parts of the southeast, like central and south Florida, this never happens, meaning that it’s tick season year-round. As winters become milder farther north, tick season in the wider southeast has also begun to extend, so that there’s relatively few months in the year when an extended period outdoors doesn’t warrant being vigilant about ticks. In fact, tick season 2020 will go all the way to late fall in the southeast US.

The good news, however, is that the southeast isn’t facing the certainty of a warmer-than-usual year, which would make ticks even more of a concern. This winter the southeast saw cooler than usual weather, and the CDC sees only a 50 percent chance that temperatures will be warmer than usual over the summer, which means that ticks are unlikely to be more active, and that tick season will end with the fall across most of the region.

See also:  How to Overcome Your Fear of Ticks and Lyme and Get Outside Again

Disease Threats

Tick-borne diseases affecting the Southeast include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and tularemia

Midwest

Ticks in the
Midwest include:
  • Deer tick (blacklegged tick)
  • Brown dog tick
  • American dog tick
  • Lone star tick

Tick Season

Begins: Late April
Ends: Early October

Tick Forecast

Weather Outlook

2020 Tick Forecast for the Midwest

The Midwest has some of the most abundant and diverse populations of ticks across the whole country. And because its natural areas so strongly resemble those of the northeast in terms of climate, the midwest is also a center for Lyme disease: apart from New England, the states around the great lakes see more cases of Lyme disease than any other region. Still, when it comes to ticks, there’s some good news for most of the Midwest. This winter and spring will likely see temperatures stay around normal, so tick season won’t begin any earlier than its usual late April start. Summer heat, however, is expected to linger, pushing September and October temperatures above average and extending tick season into the fall. In the lower midwest, however, a wetter than usual spring, coupled with a lot of severe flooding, is going to extend the habitats of many tick species, and make those areas habitable for longer than usual. So there could be a significant increase in tick activity in places like Missouri and the Ohio River valley.

Disease Threat

Tick-borne diseases affecting the Northeast include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and tularemia.

Southwest

Ticks in the Southwest include:
  • Brown dog tick
  • Western blacklegged tick
  • Rocky mountain wood tick

Tick Season

Begins: Late April
Ends: Mid- to Late-October

Tick Forecast

Weather Outlook

2020 Tick Forecast for the Southwest

The constantly warm Southwest would seem like a perfect breeding ground for ticks, but the truth is that ticks need humidity to thrive, and the Southwest gets so much more sun than rain that it’s a relatively tick-free area. As it happens, however, an El Niño weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean is going to make wide stretches of the southwest—including Texas, Oklahoma, and Arizona—more humid than usual for the first four months of 2020.

This means ticks will be more active than usual, and more likely to cross paths with potential human hosts. This humidity, combined with the usual warm summer temperatures, will extend tick season farther into the fall even for areas that can normally expect some relief thanks to cooler temperatures. The Pacific coast, however, is a different story: while California and Nevada experienced the same warmer and wetter winter, the forecasts show a drier summer than usual, making ticks less widespread than they’d be in an average year.

Disease Threats

Tick-borne diseases affecting the Southwest include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, and tularemia.

Northwest

Ticks in the Northwest include:
  • Brown dog tick
  • Western blacklegged tick
  • Rocky Mountain wood tick

Tick Season

Begins: Late April
Ends: Late October, Early November

Tick Forecast

Weather Outlook

2020 Tick Forecast for the Northwest

The Northwest is famous for its damp weather, though the big months for ticks tend to see drier conditions, with only a couple of inches per month standard for the spring and summer across Oregon, Washington, northern California, and Idaho. Still, the conditions aren’t dry enough to make ticks less of a problem.

As it happens, this year summer in the Northwest is expected to be warmer than usual, and the trend will continue into the fall, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasts also suggest that some parts of the region may end up drier than usual, though other parts may see more rainfall, but either way the Northeast is likely to provide the same beneficial habitat that it always does for ticks, making vigilance essential for those venturing into the outdoors in the region. The warmer summer conditions will extend tick season into late October and early November, so residents need to be on guard against ticks much longer than usual.

Disease Threats

Tick-borne diseases affecting the Northeast include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and tularemia.

What Goes into Our Tick Forecast

  • The National Weather Service
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF)
  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
  • The National Pest Management Association (NPMA)

In addition, we factored in available tick data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The weather models showed how likely it was that precipitation totals and temperatures would be higher or lower than average during each month of the year. We took these weather models and compared them to where ticks are present and are becoming more populous in each region of the country. Once we distilled, cross-referenced, and computed the data, we came to reasonable conclusions based on trends seen in tick populations over time.

What Does Weather
Have to Do with Ticks?

  • Larvae — Even fresh out of the egg, tick larvae look like tiny versions of adult ticks, and they tend to latch on to smaller animals to get the bloodmeal that will propel them into the next stage of their life cycle. This phase tends to present the least danger to humans in terms of disease: while some diseases can be passed on from the female ticks to the eggs, most of the diseases ticks carry come from the hosts whose blood they feed on, making it unlikely that a larvae will transmit an infection.
  • Nymphs — The next phase of the tick life cycle presents a significant danger to humans: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, for example, is often transmitted by tick nymphs. Nymphs are also tiny, which makes them extremely difficult to spot, and they are most active in the spring and summer months, when people are most likely to be out and less protected by clothing.
  • Adult — When a tick reaches the adult stage, they require a bloodmeal in order to produce eggs. And while the good news is that male adults rarely latch on to a host, the bad news is that adult female ticks do need hosts, and tend to latch on to larger animals—including humans—than tick larvae or nymphs do. Adults are most active from late fall to spring.

Best Tick Medicines For Dogs

| Updated for 2020 PetArmor FastCaps For Small Dogs PetArmor FastCaps For Large Dogs Advantus Soft Chews For Small Dogs Advantus Soft Chews For Large Dogs Best Tick Medicines For Dogs If you believe that your dog may have ticks.

Best Tick Repellents For Dogs

| Updated for 2020 Bayer Advantage Topical Flea Treatment Adams Plus Flea And Tick Shampoo Adams Plus Flea And Tick Spray Zodiac Flea And Tick Powder Best Tick Repellents For Dogs Ticks are so familiar with dogs that we often.

Best Tick Sprays

| Updated for 2020 Sawyer Products Premium Maxi-DEET OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent YAYA Organics Tick Ban All Natural Tick Repellent Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent Best Tick SpraysTicks are quite.

The Diseases Ticks Carry

Lyme Disease

This disease is spread by deer ticks (blacklegged ticks) in the eastern U.S., and in the western U.S., it is spread by the western blacklegged tick and the Rocky Mountain wood tick. Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia bacteria (which is typically picked up from animal hosts) and it typically shows itself as a “bull’s-eye” rash with a ring of red skin around a red and swollen tick bite. Additional symptoms are fever, fatigue, and headaches, and if left untreated, the disease can spread to the nervous system.

The regions where you are most likely to be infected by ticks carrying Lyme disease are:

  • The Northeast
  • North-Central states including Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Northern California

There are more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease reported to the CDC each year, but the agency expects the real number of cases to be 10 times that amount.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

This is a severe bacterial disease that can affect your organs if left untreated for an extended period of time. It’s spread by the Rocky Mountain wood tick, the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, and others.

The primary symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever are a fever, headaches, nausea, and a rash. The disease got its name from having been first identified in the Rocky Mountain region, and from the deep red spotted rash it causes near the bite. It can take up to two weeks for symptoms to appear, but rashes usually show up within four or five days.

The Mayo Clinic says that Rock Mountain spotted fever can cause:

  • Kidney failure
  • Brain inflammation
  • Lung inflammation
  • Amputation of limbs

Rocky Mountain spotted fever can also kill you if left untreated. There is an 80 percent death rate among those who don’t treat the disease.

There are more than 3,000 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever reported every year. Despite its name, more than 60 percent of cases are reported in five states beyond the Rockies: North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri, according to the CDC. It’s also prevalent in states in the Southeast.

Babesiosis

Babesiosis is a disease transmitted by the deer tick (also known as the blacklegged tick). It is far more rare than Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but the symptoms are just as severe. Some of the moderate symptoms of Babesiosis include:

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This disease gets into your red blood cells, and if it’s left untreated for long enough it can start to destroy red blood cells and cause a rare form of anemia. This can result in organ failure, blood clots, or death, according to the New York Department of Health.

Babesiosis is most commonly found in the Northeast in states such as New York and Connecticut. About 1,000 to 2,000 cases are reported every year.

Tularemia

This disease is spread by the American dog tick and the Rocky Mountain wood tick, among others. It can infect humans and animals, and it can be spread from infected animals to humans. General symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, fatigue, and nausea, though other symptoms differ depending on which version of tularemia you have. These symptoms range from chest pain to ulcers to conjunctivitis. You can view a full list of symptoms for various forms of tularemia here.

Cases of tularemia have been reported in every continental state and Alaska.

Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is spread by the lone star tick in the Southeast and Midwest. This disease can cause symptoms like general soreness around the body, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rash. The symptoms typically take around 5 to 14 days to develop.

Anaplasmosis

This disease is spread by deer ticks (also known as the blacklegged tick). Anaplasmosis is most often found in the same general region as Lyme disease, which includes the Northeast and Midwest. The primary symptoms of Anaplasmosis are:

  • Fever
  • Severe headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Mild anemia

Cases of anaplasmosis have increased drastically from a few hundred cases in 2000 to more than 5,000 in 2017 . This is due in part to a better understanding of the disease and also an expanding population of ticks over the same period of time.

How to Prevent Tick Bites

Ticks spread disease by latching on to their hosts: as they remain attached, pathogens that live in the tick’s digestive system make their way into the host’s body and bloodstream. So how can you prevent ticks from latching onto you and spreading disease?

Ticks don’t fly, they don’t jump, and they don’t usually crawl on to their hosts from the ground. Instead, ticks reach their hosts by “ questing ”—having discovered high-traffic areas via scent or heat detection (or, occasionally, by detecting shadows), they climb up on nearby leaves and grass, hold on to their perch using their hind legs, and catch a ride on a host by grabbing with their two front legs. Knowing this, it’s easy to see how the following precautions would work:

Repellents and Insecticides

Repellents like DEET and picaridin help prevent ticks from getting on you in the first place. But if they do get on you, they can help to kill the tick. You can spray DEET on your clothes and skin, but Picaridin can only be sprayed on your clothes, and not your skin. Permethrin is also effective against ticks when applied to clothing.

Wear Proper Clothing

Wearing long sleeves, long socks, long pants, and high-ankle shoes/boots can help prevent ticks from latching onto your body. You usually won’t notice a tick crawling on you, especially in its tiny nymph stage, so it’s important to try and stop the ticks from getting on your body in the first place. Tucking your pants into your shoes or socks can stop the tick from finding anywhere on your body to latch onto. Wearing long sleeves and pants can also prevent them from latching onto you should they crawl to these areas on the outside of your clothes. Hopefully by the time they make it to an open area, they will have ran across enough repellent to kill them or have them fall off.

Avoid Areas Likely to Have Ticks

This sounds easy enough, but do you know where the most tick-infested areas are? They could be anywhere, but ticks most often choose dense, moist locations with plenty of shade such as shrubbery and forested areas. Make sure you’re wearing protective clothing and/or using repellant when entering these areas.

Look for Ticks and Remove any you Find

Check your scalp and skin after you’ve had a potential exposure. If by chance you find a tick on you (they may look like dirt, so grab a magnifying glass or your phone’s camera), you should remove the tick. While it may have already been on you long enough to transfer a disease, get rid of it immediately. Remove the tick with tweezers or your fingers. Properly kill the tick by dousing it with rubbing alcohol. Clean the area on your arm with hot water and soap. Keep note of the day you removed the tick and watch out for any symptoms of tick-borne diseases.

Keeping Ticks out of Your Neighborhood

Wilderness areas are the most likely to expose you to ticks, but they’re also a threat in residential areas. That, again, is because ticks are spread by their hosts, and the most common hosts for ticks, including mice, deer, and other mammals, aren’t confined to wilderness areas. Mice are everywhere, and as development takes our homes farther and farther out into what used to be countryside, deer are more common in suburban spaces as well. So you should take all the precautions you might take in wilderness areas after you’ve been outdoors even in your own neighborhood. There are also some precautions you can take to keep ticks from being a threat near your home.

Apply insecticides

Insecticides can help kill any ticks in and around your yard. You can buy permethrin-based insecticides at the store, or you can hire a pest control expert to handle the issue. If you’re doing it yourself, make sure to strictly follow the directions on the container. Apply the insecticide when it is dry and there is no rain in the forecast for the next few days

Use tick control tubes

Mice are a crucial host for ticks, and it’s about as easy to keep mice out of your yard as it is to keep out wind and rain. But there is an innovative solution available: the pest-control manufacturer Thermacell offers tick control tubes—tubes filled with permethrin-soaked cotton balls that mice take back to their nests. These cotton balls then kill the ticks that have latched onto the mice, eliminating them as a potential host.

Keep your yard clear of clutter

You can help make your home a tick-free area by keeping your yard free of clutter. Get rid of any dead tree branches or shrubbery, and keep plant life trimmed and flowing. Trim the grass and keep any returning wildlife out of your yard.

Mow your lawn

The soil under a grassy lawn holds in moisture, making it a perfect place for ticks to lay their eggs and for those eggs to hatch. Keeping your grass short reduces the amount of moisture in the lawn, however, making eggs less viable and making ticks less likely to lay their eggs in your yard.

Ticks and Pets

Two of the most prevalent species of American ticks have dog in their name—the American dog tick and the brown dog tick. Dogs are particularly susceptible to becoming tick hosts and carriers, making them perfect for transferring ticks from outside to inside your home.

Unfortunately, too, there are a number of tick-borne diseases that can affect dogs as well. Dogs are at risk of infection from many of the threats that humans face from ticks, including

  • Lyme disease — spread by the deer tick and western blacklegged tick. Symptoms in dogs include joint problems, lack of appetite, lassitude, and fever.
  • Ehrlichiosis — one of the most dangerous tick-borne diseases for dogs. Symptoms in dogs include swelling, lassitude, lack of appetite, nose bleeds and a runny nose.
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever — spread by the American dog tick, the wood tick, and the lone star tick. Symptoms in dogs include fever, joint issues, nerve issues, and lesions on the skin.
  • Babesiosis — spread by the American dog tick and the brown dog tick. Symptoms in dogs can include weakness and vomiting.
  • Bartonellosis — spread by the brown dog tick. Symptoms in dogs include lameness and fever.

Keeping ticks off your pets can be easier than keeping them off yourself, however. You can try these strategies:

  • Check your pets – Especially if they’ve been outside for a while, check your pet’s skin to see if you can spot any ticks and promptly remove them if you do.
  • Use anti-tick medications – Consult with your vet, but there are a few medications available that will prevent ticks from latching on to your dog and prevent ticks from reproducing. These medications can come in pill and topical forms.
  • Keep ticks out of your yard – As noted above, there are a number of strategies that can help you reduce tick populations in your yard if that’s where your dog spends most of its time. In particular, keeping your grass mowed and keeping tall weeds down can help prevent ticks from latching on and infecting your best friend with a serious disease.

Depending on where you live, climactic conditions will make ticks a more significant problem in 2020 than in the average year. That may leave you and your family at risk for tick-borne diseases. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the outdoors. By taking some precautions you can make tramping through the woods a safe activity, and by being proactive with your home environment you can reduce the risks you might face in your neighborhood.

www.pests.org

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