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April 27, 2012

Outdoors

Warmer weather increases number of ticks, risk for Lyme disease at Fort McCoy

Deer ticks are making their presence known at Fort McCoy, said David Beckmann, Fort McCoy wildlife biologist.

The numbers likely will continue to rise as temperatures consistently top the 50-degree mark, he said.

Chances for encounters between ticks and humans also increase as people in the Fort McCoy community are outdoors more, he said.

People who encounter these pests may contract diseases, such as Lyme disease or Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis, he said.
One of the most important pieces of knowledge is how to prevent tick bites.

“If you can avoid the areas where ticks reside, you can substantially reduce your risk of coming in contact with deer or wood ticks,” Beckmann said. “Even if you come into contact with a tick, you can reduce the chance of having them attach to you if you are wearing the proper clothing.”

Beckmann said deer and wood ticks typically hang on the lower, outer branches or stems of shrubs and plants waiting to hitch a ride on an unsuspecting host.

Tall grassy fields, thick brush areas and game trails also tend to be tick magnets. In addition to avoiding areas where ticks may congregate, people can protect themselves against ticks by:
• Wearing clothes that cover their bodies, including their arms and legs, and tucking pants into socks and shirts into pants;
• Treating clothing with insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin as directed in the product instructions;
• Examining clothes and skin frequently for ticks, especially in body areas that retain heat, such as body hair, and,
• Using a tick-repellent collar for pets and checking them closely after being outdoors.

People who do encounter ticks greatly can reduce the odds of contracting a disease by knowing how to safely remove ticks as soon as possible after they have become attached.

The first thing to do is to keep a level head and develop a game plan, he said.

Many of the ticks do not carry or transmit diseases. Medically, statistics show that brief encounters with ticks generally do not lead to people contracting diseases. A tick generally must be in contact with its host for 24 to 48 hours for the transmission of the disease(s) to take place, Beckmann said.

Disease symptoms for humans may vary, but often are similar to those associated with the flu, such as fatigue, headaches, muscle aches and fever.

Skin rashes may occur. The rashes may be odd shaped, may be bull’s-eye shaped, may be single or in multiple numbers and sizes and may appear anywhere on the body. Skin rashes may not occur on all people.

Beckmann said as a general rule, anyone bitten by a tick who develops an unusual rash or experiences symptoms associated with tick-borne diseases promptly should see their local medical provider and get tested.

Tick-borne diseases can be extremely harmful to humans and pets if left untreated, he added.

The Fort McCoy Natural Resources Branch Wildlife Program, in conjunction with Michigan State University, has developed a brochure with photos and descriptions of deer and wood ticks at all stages of life and detailed information on tick-borne diseases. For more information, call the Permit Sales Office, building 2168, at 608-388-3337.

The brochure also is available by calling the Safety Office, building 1678, at 608-388-3403, and the Fort McCoy Health Clinic, building 2669, which includes the Occupational Health Clinic at 608-388-3209/2414 or the Troop Medical Clinic at 608-388-3025/3128.

Military and Department of Defense personnel who contract embedded deer ticks at Fort McCoy should report it to the Occupational Health Clinic staff.

Beckmann said the U.S. Army Health Command (Provisional) also has information about the topic at the website http://phc.amedd.army.mil.

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