Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tick Tock…..It’s That Time of Year Again!

Black Legged aka Deer Tick
Spring has finally sprung around MN and with spring comes a host of new concerns for employees that work outside.  Park and Recreation workers are out in full force right alongside all of the hordes of ticks and bugs we love to hate in Minnesota.  That means city employees need to take preventative measures. Why do we need preventative measures?  Those wonderful creatures carry a plethora of diseases and infections that they can transmit when biting or stinging us.

One of the most talked about diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme Disease.  Why is this of concern to us in Minnesota?  Because 95% of all reported Lyme Disease cases came from 14 states including Minnesota.   According to the CDC, there were 1,431 confirmed cases and 909 probable cases in 2013 reported in MN. With ticks being the most active from April to September, this is the time of year we need to be the most vigilant in prevention and recognizing potential issues.

Bull's-eye rash
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks (aka deer ticks). Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans or, more commonly, a bull’s-eye rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks.   Most Lyme disease is treatable with a course of antibiotics, however more advanced instances of the disease may require more intensive treatment. 

Lyme disease is not a communicable disease which means that it cannot be contracted by being around an infected person.  Pets can also get Lyme disease and they are a good mode of transportation of these pesky ticks into our living spaces.  The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick-borne diseases as well.

There is currently no vaccination available to prevent Lyme disease.  Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick
habitat.  There are also new advances in repellents available in clothing, which may be the best option in instances where you are not able to reapply spray repellent or have a prolonged exposure.  If you have been exposed to potential tick bites you should:

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)
By Tara Bursey

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