HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
Unlike the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and north central states, Washington is not inundated with ticks and has relatively few cases of tick-borne disease. But each year a few cases of relapsing fever, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are reported to state health officials. We still need to take some simple precautions when working outdoors, camping, or just strolling around in bushy and grassy areas to reduce the chances of being bitten.
Tick bites usually occur during late spring and summer. It is also the time of year when humans should follow basic safety precautions to avoid being bitten.
According to Dr, Allen C. Steere, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, the risk of acquiring a tick-born infection is quite low, even if the tick has been attached, fed and is actually carrying an infectious agent. Since the deer tick that transmits Lyme disease must feed for 36 hours before transmitting the bacteria, the risk of acquiring Lyme disease from a bite is only 1.2 to 1.4 percent, even in a location where the disease is common. The highest reported incidents of Lyme disease occur among children 5 to 14 years old and adults 45 to 54 years old.
Steer recommends if a tick is found attached to your body, the proper way to remove it is to use a set of fine tweezers and grip the tick as close to the skin as possible. Do not use a smoldering match or cigarette, nail polish, petroleum jell, liquid soap, or kerosene because they may cause the tick to behave like a syringe, injecting bodily fluids into the wound. The proper technique for tick removal includes the following:
• Use the tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible.
• Pull backwards gently, but firmly, using an even, steady pressure. Do not jerk or twist.
• Do not squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick, since its bodily fluids may contain infection causing organisms.
• After removing the tick, wash the skin and hands thoroughly with soap and water.
• If any mouth parts of the tick remain in the skin, these should be left alone. They will be expelled on their own. Attempts to remove those parts may result in significant skin trauma. After the tick has been removed it is helpful if the person affected can provide information about the size of the tick, whether it was actually attached to the skin and if it was full of blood, and how long it was attached.
Lyme disease affects everyone differently. It only takes a week for most people to exhibit symptoms. The first sign may be a rash near the bite. Other people may not see symptoms for months or even years after being bitten. If left untreated, the disease can permanently damage your nervous system and joints.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever has a much more immediate onset. The earliest symptoms include sudden fever, headache, and muscle pain, quickly followed by a trademark rash. This disease can be somewhat difficult to diagnose in the early stages, and without proper diagnosis and immediate treatment can be fatal.
A few simple precautions can reduce the risk of being bitten. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Always make sure the cuffs of your pants are tucked inside your boots and tuck in your shirt. Use a tick repellent containing permethrins and spray the repellent near the openings of your cloths, such as the cuffs, sleeves and waist band. Apply only to your cloths, never to your skin. Use a repellent with DEET for your skin, however the repellent should never contain no more than 33 percent DEET, and be careful not to use too much, and never apply to your face or hands.
American theologian and editor Edward Tryon (1809-94) said, “Preventatives are far better than remedies, cheaper and easier of application, and surer in results.” Amen on that.