Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 09:53
By the end of this article, chances are you will be itching.
|A tick on 6-year-old Olivia Stutzman’s ear. (Photo provided)
Wood County is seeing a population explosion - of blood sucking ticks.
Just ask Dan Stutzman, of Bowling Green, who had to pick a tick off his 6-year-old daughter's ear recently. The family has a tick checking procedure when they return from time in Wintergarden Park, where Stutzman's wife Cinda works as a natural resources specialist.
"We're out there a lot. So we check them every day," Stutzman said of their children.
The cool wet spring has created ideal conditions for the insect to multiply, according to Craig Everett, horticulturist with the OSU Extension Service in Wood County.
The bugs are more than annoying. They have the potential to spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease. So local health and park officials are suggesting that local residents keep an eye out for the ticks on themselves and their pets.
Feel itchy yet?
"They're pretty bad," Everett said, disputing the rumor that it was the mild winter that led to more ticks this spring. Freezing temperatures aren't enough to stop these pests.
"They have adapted," he said. "They have been here a lot longer than we have."
The ticks thrive in taller wet grassy areas.
"This is what those guys love," Everett said. "Then they grab onto you."
Everett said he has even heard from county park district employees that staff has started a "tick jar collection."
"They see who has the most ticks in the tick jar. That tells you it's pretty bad," he said.
Deb Nofzinger, program coordinator with the county parks said while park visitors have reported more ticks, she has been fortunate.
"I'm one of those lucky people who apparently doesn't taste too good," she said. But just the thought of crawling, sucking ticks is bad enough.
"The majority of the people are so grossed out about having a tick on them," Nofzinger said. "I'm starting to itch right now, just talking to you."
The good news is - a tick has to be feeding for quite a while before it transfers a disease.
"The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk," said Brad Espen, director of environmental services at the Wood County Health Department."
In fact, according to Cinda Stutzman, the tick must be attached for 24 hours or more before bacteria is transmitted.
The bad news is - some ticks are so small they may be hard to find until they are engorged with blood from the person or pet it's attached to.
"People need to be vigilant," Espen said of tick searches. The key is to locate and remove the ticks quickly.
"They're looking for their first blood meal so they can develop their eggs and create more ticks," he said.
"You just need to be careful. The key is early removal," usually tweezers.
There are some precautions people can take to limit tick risks:
• Keep your lawn mowed to about 3 inches high.
• Use insect repellent with DEET.
• Give pets monthly treatments for ticks.
• If your priority is safety over fashion, tuck your pant legs into your shoes.
And "check yourself when you come back in," Everett said. "That's easier said than done."
Park officials don't want the threat of ticks to discourage people from using parks this summer.
"I just hope this kind of stuff doesn't prevent people from going outside and enjoying the outdoors," Nofzinger said.
Stutzman suggested that risks can be minimized if people and their pets don't stray from trails in wooded areas.
"Those critters are just waiting to pounce," she said.
The only type of tick found at Wintergarden Park is the dog tick, which has the potential of carrying Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
"But very few ticks are carrying diseases," Stutzman explained. None of the deer tick type that carry Lyme disease have been spotted there.
As a visible reminder, Stutzman has preserved one of the ticks to show others at the park.
"There's one taped to my computer," she said.
As an expert at removing ticks, she recommended using tweezers - not a lit match. "Those are all myths."
Stutzman admitted the thought of the little buggers has made her more cautious.
"I run my fingers through my hair all the time," Stutzman said. "I feel like I have ticks all the time."
Feel itchy yet?
• The American dog tick is the most prevalent tick found in Wood County. This tick gets its name because it is often found on domestic animals like dogs and cats.
• Ticks are most often found in locations that have trees and brush adjacent to open grass areas. They prefer cool wet spring conditions.
• Wildlife, such as deer and rodents, can have well over a thousand female ticks on them that often drop into a yard or residential area. A female tick can lay over 12,000 eggs each following a blood meal.
• Put down wood chips as a boundary to limit the movement of ticks into a residential yard.
• Keep grass mowed at the height of two to three inches.
• Avoid wooded or weedy areas.
• If exposure is unavoidable, tuck pants into sock tops or boots.
• Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to find crawling ticks.
• Use repellents with DEET.
• Check children and pets for ticks frequently.
• Treatments are available to control ticks on dogs.
• The most common human diseases transmitted by ticks are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease.
• Ticks must bite and remain attached for hours in order to transmit diseases.
• If you develop symptoms of tick-borne disease, including fever, flu-like illness or a rash within a few weeks of a tick bite, tell your doctor about your tick exposure.
• If a tick is attached, remove it as soon as possible to reduce your risk of infection.
• Shield fingers with a paper towel or use tweezers. Grasp the tick close to the skin. With steady pressure, pull the tick straight up and out. Avoid crushing the tick.
• Do not use a hot match, cigarette, nail polish, petroleum jelly or other products to remove a tick.
• After removing a tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands with soap and water.
Want to know more?
For more information on tick vectored diseases contact the Wood County Health Department Environmental office at (419) 354-2702. For control issues contact the Ohio State University Extension office in Wood County at (419) 354-9050.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 10:14