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By Pam Burke 

Tick season is in full swing


While many fishing access sites and state parks in Montana are set to re-open today, the state is also in peak tick season, but information is available on what to do to avoid ticks, remove them if they are embedded in the skin and have them tested, as well as providing information on signs and symptoms for tick-borne diseases.

Laurie Kerzicnik, anthropod diagnostician at Montana State University’s Schutter Diagnostic Lab, said in a release that Montana’s two most common ticks are the American dog tick, found in eastern Montana, and the Rocky Mountain tick, found primarily in western Montana, with some sightings in mountainous areas east of the Rocky Mountains.

Both species of tick, the state Department of Public Health and Human Services website says, can transmit two bacteria-caused diseases, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, averaging six cases per year, and tularemia, four cases, as well as a viral disease, Colorado tick fever, one or two cases. The bacterial disease, tick-borne relapsing fever, is rare in Montana where the bacteria that causes the disease is passed through a small, soft tick of the Ornithodoros genus that is found on rodents.

Lyme disease, a bacterium transmitted through black-legged ticks, formerly called deer ticks, has the highest degree of occurrence in the state with an average of 10 per year, DPHHS says, even though Montana does not have deer ticks. The Lyme disease cases have been traced to contact with deer ticks outside of the state and no ticks in the state have been found to carry the Lyme disease bacterium.

Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not fall onto people out of trees, Kerzicnik said. Ticks live in tall grass and short bushes like sagebrush, and the wood tick also likes stream corridors, she said. They get higher on the body by climbing.

How to avoid ticks and their bites

People can use a repellent like 20 percent or more DEET, IR3535 or picaridin or, 5 percent permethrin products for clothing and tents, the experts say, and keep shirts tucked in when in tick-habitat areas. They also recommend checking for ticks after being outdoors or right after passing through an area with thick brush or tall grasses.

Kerzicnik recommended the TickEncounter Research Center for assistance with avoiding and identifying ticks. The research center recommended, among other things, keeping grass and shrubs trimmed and plant clutter picked up in outdoor areas around a house, cabin or campsite.

How to remove a tick

It’s important to remove ticks that is embedded in the skin as soon as possible because the disease-causing bacteria and viruses do not pass to humans right away – Kerzicnik said that a tick has to remain attached for at least 10 hours for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to transmit from tick to human.

“Folklore remedies” for removing ticks are common, but can be detrimental to the tick removal process, sometimes driving the tick deeper into the skin. DPHHS, along with Kerzicnik and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, advise using a fine-tipped tweezer to carefully pull the tick from the skin.

DPHHS site says to:

1. Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

It is important to note that only a live tick can be sent to a lab for identification and to test it for any disease-causing bacteria or viruses. That said, DPHHS does not recommend sending ticks to labs for testing if a person is worried about having contacted a disease. The organizations website says that positive results for the tick, does not mean the disease was transmitted. And negative results could lead to false assurance because a different, undetected, tick may have bitten and infected the person. Also, the site said, symptoms will most likely develop before results on the tick test are available.

Symptoms commonly include fever that is most likely a high temperature, fatigue, muscle aches, body aches, rash and a headache. And anyone, who has found ticks on themselves or been in tick habitat, should contact their doctor if they are displaying these symptoms.








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