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May 27, 2011  

Outdoors

Warmer weather increases numbers

of ticks, risks for disease

Deer ticks are beginning to make their presence known, said David Beckmann, Fort McCoy wildlife biologist.

The numbers likely will continue to rise as the weather becomes more spring-like, with temperatures consistently topping the 50-degree mark, he said.
PHOTO: Personnel from the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch and the Directorate of Emergency Services Fire Department conducted a controlled burn near the South Post Housing Area. Photo by Rob Schuette
Personnel from the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch and the Directorate of Emergency Services Fire Department conducted a controlled burn near the South Post Housing Area May 10 to reduce the tick population in that area. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

Chances for encounters between ticks and humans also increase as more people in the Fort McCoy community are outdoors to train, do outdoor work, or relax and enjoy the spring and summer weather, he said.

People who encounter these pests may contract diseases, such as Lyme disease or Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis, he said.
Usually, ticks can be controlled by taking the proper precautions, 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;
• Applying insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin to clothes 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 can greatly 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, it has been shown that brief encounters with ticks do not generally 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 should promptly see their local medical provider and get tested.

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

The Fort McCoy Natural Resources Branch Wildlife Program, in conjunction with Michigan State University, is developing 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 will be available by calling the Safety Office, building 1678, at 608-388-3403 and the Troop Medical Clinic, building 2669, at 608-388-3025/3128.

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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