State officials say they’ve seen an increase in the number of ticks this year, including those carrying diseases.
The Connecticut Post reports that more than 200 ticks have been submitted for testing to the state’s Agricultural Experiment Station in March, compared to 14 in March 2015. Officials say the number of ticks testing positive for the bacterium that cause Lyme disease is also higher than usual.
Experts blame a warm winter and a large population of white-footed mice, which can carry the Lyme disease bacterium and spread it to ticks.
The bacterium is transmitted to humans through tick bites and can cause serious health problems if left untreated.
Health officials say to wear insect repellent and to be vigilant about checking for ticks after spending time outdoors this spring.
Ticks are parasites that stick their heads under your skin and drink the liquid that you have in between your skin cells. The live off of you until they are nourished enough to go off and mate to create more ticks.
Don’t panic, while the tick may carry a host of bacteria that can cause infection, the risk of getting these infections is remarkably low during the first 48 hours. In the first 48 hours, they are just sucking in your fluids and growing in size. After about 48 hours, the Tick hits maximum size and starts to push the fluids in their body back into your body and then suck fresh fluid to replace it. It is this regurgitation of fluids back into your body that introduces bacteria into your system. So the first thing to do is to remove the tick as soon as possible.
Some websites say to use petroleum jelly to coat the tick then pull it out, however, the Centers for Diseases Control recommends specifically against this approach. If you shut off their air supply, they will start regurgitating the fluids into your body as they die. You want to use tweezers and pinch the tick as close to the skin as you can. Don’t twist, don’t jerk, just keep giving it constant and increasing backward pressure until it pops off. Then kill it and put it in a bag with the date you removed it. This way if someone wants to test it later on, they can. Wash with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or iodine solution.
Should you call your doctor or wait to see what happens? Either is acceptable. The CDC recommends waiting unless you develop a fever, rash, or aches in your muscles or joints over the next several weeks.
For Lyme disease there is a rash with a red center, regular skin color, and then another red circle so it looks like a target. There are antibiotics that can help but it works better the sooner you get it.
Avoid ticks altogether by wearing long pants and log sleeve shirts, using bug repellent with 20% or more DEET or permethrin, stay on trails where possible, and check yourself and loved ones over for ticks when you come out of the woods.
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I know this make appear out of left field and be rather gross in description, but I have heard too many stories in the last few weeks to warrant some research, offer some suggestions, and alert friends to be aware of the issue;)
Enjoy the outdoors but be safe.
Dr. Meghan