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Tick Talk: Blood Sucking Pests Making Presence Known This Year

An early spring gave the area's ticks a jump start on the season.

As anyone who's walked through wooded areas in Lynnfield and surrounding towns this spring is likely to know, ticks have been particularly numerous.

With that in mind, the Lynnfield Board of Health is working to get the word out about the lyme disease risks that ticks bring. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria spread through the bites of infected deer ticks, although one must typically be attached for at least 24 before it can spread the disease. In Massachusetts, deer ticks can also spread germs causing babesiosis and human granuloctic anaplasmosis - aka human granulocytic ehrlichiosis.

It's also worth noting that while ticks are most active in the spring and summer months, they can also attach themselves to hosts in winter when the weather is above freezing.

Symptoms of lyme disease can manifest between three and thirty days after a tick bite, and if it is not treated, late symptoms can persist for years after the infection. Symptoms include a rash where the tick was attached, plus flu-like symptoms such as fever, stiff neck, aching muscles and joints and fatigue. In the longer term, untreated lyme disease brings the higher risk of arthritis in the joints, meningitis, Bell's palsy, and heart problems, among other health problems.

Antibiotics are used to treat lyme disease, but given the risks, prevention and vigilance may be more helpful in the long run. Repellents with DEET or permethrin (permethrin repellents are supposed to be used on gear and clothing, not skin) can keep ticks at bay, and it's adviseable to wear long, light-colored pants in the woods that are tucked into one's boots or socks. Long-sleeved shirts are also helpful in tick-infested areas, even if they might be uncomfortable in hot weather. It's also good to talk to one's veterinarian about tick control options and to stick to cleared trails when hiking.

Don June 08, 2012 at 01:28 PM
This is serious. I was bitten 3 years ago and developed lyme disease. The symptoms were very high fever (103), dizziness, basically everything the flu would bring except the congestion/coughing. It will make you feel like not wanting to stand up and lie down all the time. The cause, well, as you all know there are lots of deer in Lynnfield. We used to have about 12 deer, last year that herd grew to over 30 deer walking through our backyard. Even the coyotes haven't thinned the herd. As bad as I felt, it only takes 1 pill of antibiotics to get rid of it, if you catch it fast. I didn't know I was bitten when I went to the hospital. The doctor sent me for blood and sure enough when the technician started to draw there was the bite on my underarm. The tick got me while I was picking stringbeans in my garden. Didn't stop me, but if you want to buy stock on something, Deep Woods Off is a good bet. I also spray the entire yard with Deer Off from our local HD/Lowes. The deer still have eaten one of my pepper plants. This poses a question to our town leaders/police chief. How can the herd be lessened? Tough to do. I am not a hunter or like guns much at all. Could we commision a group of bow hunters to come in, I bet many would "volunteer" as they like that stuff. Not me. I am as healthy as can be, but that little microdot can take you down fast. Be careful folks.
William Laforme (Editor) June 08, 2012 at 03:12 PM
My former Siberian Husky got Lyme Disease and it would always kill me to see him in pain when he couldn't even lift his head during flare-ups. I'm in the woods fairly regularly and usually check myself at the car, at home, and then always change right upon getting home just for good measure.
Don June 08, 2012 at 04:37 PM
I do just about everything you mentioned in the article Bill. Even though I was lucky and caught it early, it is something that I still have to live with. Our medical community is just learning about this disease. It is said that it remains dormant for 10 years or so, then it attacks the joints. Sometimes amputations are performed. Good that all know this as the animal population is thriving.
Nikki June 08, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Don, it's not the deer you have to be afraid of...it's mice! Scientists believe that the white-footed mouse is the culprit that transfers the lyme's disease bacteria to ticks. The poor deer get blamed for it when, actually, they're just one of the myriad of mammals (and birds!) that ticks attach themselves to.
Richard Pollack June 08, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Finding and promptly removing ticks (from a person or pet) can dramatically reduce risk of infection. Once the tick has been removed, have it identified. Only certain kinds of ticks can transmit the agents of Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Other ticks may transmit other infections. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of infection. Physical samples can be sent, or digital images uploaded, for a rapid, confidential, independent and expert evaluation. For more educational information and help with tick identification, visit https://identify.us.com. Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)
Alexander Davis June 09, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Over the past century the deer population has exploded and so has the deer tick population. We are suffering the consequences which require vast life-style changes necessary to try to avoid the Lyme disease plague. Deer are the primary host of the adult egg-laying deer ticks which require a blood meal from a large mammal. Each adult tick can lay 3000 eggs which hatch into larvae and then nymphs, hosted by small mammals like mice. Going after the deer breaks this cycle. In Bridgeport CT, lowering the deer population 74% resulted in a 92% decrease in nymphal deer ticks. In Groton CT the deer population was reduced from 77 per square mile to 10 per square mile, and the Lyme Disease incidence decreased by 83%.
Alexander Davis June 09, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Public health officials downplay the dangers of the Lyme Disease epidemic. It is represented as being easy to spot and cure. Yet most infections are transmitted by the minute poppy-seed-sized nymphs which are often not noticed, especially when in the hair, etc. 70% of victims never have a rash, and the rash, which is often not the advertised bulls-eye, is frequently missed. 20% of patients initially treated with antibiotics go on to develop symptoms (joints, brain, heart, etc.) later. An increasing number are developing other co-infections, since the deer tick carries many diseases.
Alexander Davis June 09, 2012 at 10:55 AM
The Lyme Disease epidemic has been caused by the deer epidemic. Because of their large size, deer are the primary host of the adult deer tick, which requires a blood meal from a sizeable mammal for reproduction. The adult deer ticks, each of which lays thousands of eggs, are spread all around by the deer because of their large range. These eggs hatch into larvae and then nymphs which feed primarily on small mammals like mice. Eliminating the deer host interrupts this cycle. As explained in this information, “Simply reducing deer numbers to natural levels, without any other actions of any kind taken, can eradicate Lyme Disease.” : http://www.eradicatelymedisease.org/lyme.html
Alexander Davis June 09, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Correction: I meant to say that 70% have a rash, 30% or so do not.

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