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The Black-legged Tick-9/29/16

th ixodes-distribution-2 ixodes_scapularis

Summer is finally over which means hopefully the mosquitos and “no see ems” will soon disappear which makes me want to jump for joy personally. But we are not completely free of bugs as the seasons change…ticks are now upon us. Unfortunately, the beginning of deer season means the beginning of tick infestations. There is not one person in the world that has shot a deer that was free of ticks, I guarantee it. Usually they are all clustered around the genital region and scurry about as soon as you begin to remove the hide to harvest the meat. Ticks, especially black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) pose a huge threat to humans but especially during deer season. This specific species of tick carries the infamous Lyme disease. I will further explain the history of the disease, as well as side effects and preventative techniques.

History

Ticks are nasty, pesky little insects that burrow into skin/fur of their hosts and feed on their blood. Of the numerous species of ticks, the most important is the black-legged tick or deer tick. This tick can cause great ailments for humans, if not treated correctly or immediately. But how did this disease come about? It was believed that Lyme disease was a fairly new epidemic that started around the 70s with the hippies and the disco music. However, after multiple cases began to pop up in Connecticut, scientists and doctors realized that this disease had been documented in Europe almost 100 years ago and it was not a new disease after all. They then began to suspect that the disease was around as far back as the Lewis and Clark era, but was overshadowed by more debilitating diseases that were present then. As more and more cases popped up, physicians and the public began to notice the warning signs and treat right away.

Side Effects

People who believed they were infected by the tick all shared a common rash that looked very similar to a “bullseye”. Along with the rash, people would experience some sort of flu-like symptom such as fever, aches, chills (the same side effects for nearly EVERYTHING) so the rash was really the telling symptom. Doctors would prescribe the infected persons a strong antibiotic and that would be that. However, the ones that did not suspect the disease or were unaware of Lyme disease faced long-term damage such as severe arthritis or central nervous issues such as dizziness and memory loss. The surge in Lyme disease cases caused many ecologists and scientists to get together and determine how to keep humans out of the way of this horrible tick. They took a look at the tick’s ecology and biology and mapped out where and when the ticks were most prominent. They linked the ticks’ location to wherever the deer population was the densest. For instance, in the fall when acorns begin to drop, deer focus heavily on forests filled with hardwoods, especially oak trees.

Preventative Techniques

It is always important to wear tick repellent. OFF makes a bug spray that repels ticks but also the soap Irish Spring repels ticks (and I think chiggers but do not quote me on that!). Another step towards prevention is to conduct tick searches after leaving the woods. It is important to search every inch of your body for ticks. If in fact you come into contact with a black-legged tick, there is a window of opportunity; you could remove it before it infects you with the Lyme carrying bacteria! The last step is much harder to accomplish.  Some people would suggest avoiding areas that are heavily populated with host species (such as deer and mice) but that is hard to do when it is hunting season! I suggest using bug sprays and checking yourself very often!

The outdoors is a very exciting place to be, but some of its tenants are not so pleasurable. As hunting season quickly approaches, think of the habitats you will be frequenting and how dense the deer population is at that particular site. The heavier the deer population, the heavier the tick population!! By all means, do not avoid the woods because you are avoiding ticks, just take necessary precautions and you will be good to go! Please read the entire article I have attached! It is very informative.

http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/issue.aspx?id=923&y=0&no=&content=tne&page=6&css=print

 

By: Red Clay

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