Fort McCoy News May 10, 2013

Tick presence, Lyme disease chance on increase

A cool spring hasn't delayed the appearance of deer ticks, and consequently, the potential of Lyme disease at Fort McCoy.

David Beckmann, Fort McCoy wildlife biologist, said servicemembers and others in the field, such as spring turkey hunters, reported encountering deer ticks as soon as the daily temperatures surpassed 50 degrees. The numbers are certain to increase when temperatures climb, he said.

Chances for encounters between ticks and humans also increase as members of the Fort McCoy community spend more time outdoors, he said.

People who encounter these pests may contract diseases, such as Lyme disease, Babesiosis or Anaplasmosis.
People need to know how to prevent tick bites, Beckmann said.

"If you can avoid the areas where ticks reside, you can substantially reduce your risk of coming in contact with deer or wood ticks," he 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 and game trails tend to be preferred habitat for ticks, he said. In addition to avoiding such areas, protect against tick exposure by:

• Wearing clothes that cover the body, including 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 on pets and checking them closely after being outdoors.

People who encounter ticks greatly can reduce the odds of contracting a disease by not panicking and developing a sound game plan because many ticks do not carry or transmit diseases, he said.

If people have been bitten by a tick, they must know how to safely remove the tick as soon as possible after it has become attached, he said.

Medically, statistics show that brief encounters with ticks generally do not lead to people contracting diseases, Beckmann said. 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.

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, 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 have a bull's-eye appearance, may be single or in multiple numbers and sizes and may appear anywhere on the body. Skin rashes may not occur on all people.

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 come in contact with embedded deer ticks at Fort McCoy should report it to the Fort McCoy 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. Search for "Ticks" or "Lyme Disease."