by Celeste Cole
Ticked off. Guess who’s coming to dinner! Amblyomma, Dermacentor, Ixodes, Rhipicephalus, and Ornithodoros…say what?
Say no, these uninvited dinner guests have YOU on the menu.
- Ixodes scapularis and pacificus our favorite terrorist group the black-legged tick and notorious vector of Lyme disease. The rest of the nefarious group includes –
- Dermacentor variabili the dog tick, andersoni the wood tick, albipictus the winter tick, and occidentalis the Pacific Coast tick. If that is not enough to curl your toes add the –
- Amblyomma americanum the lone star tick and maculatum the Gulf Coast tick.
Fortunately, for us the Rhipicephalus reside in Africa, it appears not a single area of the world is without these obnoxious arachnids including Antarctica. Ixodes uriae are home to the King, rock hopper, and royal penguins.
Why address the subject now, tis the spring season, time to bring out the armor and prepare for battle.
How to avoid ticks
The most obvious and least desirable is to stay indoors during tick season. That is not an option so what’s next.
Wear long-sleeved shirts tuck pant legs into socks and take a dip in Deet. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz thanks for playing, negative for fun loving sun worshippers.
Since we are on the subject of Deet, what is it? According to –
“Science Daily (Aug. 6, 2009) — the active ingredient in many insect repellents, Deet (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide), has been found to be toxic to the central nervous system. Researchers say that more investigations are urgently needed to confirm or dismiss any potential neurotoxicity to humans, especially when Deet-based repellents are used in combination with other neurotoxin insecticides.”
Comforting…and further research indicates Deet is not effective against ticks. I can personally vouch for this updated research.
After dousing in Deet and applying the recommended clothing, I took a nice three-mile hike to a Northern Spotted Owl research survey site. Returning from this little jaunt, I immediately searched for the “creepy crawlers,” and found thirty-three assorted arachnids on my person and clothing. Stripped down to my birthday suit, I stuffed the clothing into a (biodegradable, thank you) garbage bag sealed it and proceeded to use the equivalent of a pet flea comb on my hair. Moral of the story do not believe everything the pharmaceuticals preach. Oh, and for those of you with vivid imaginations, I hike in the dead of night incognito.
The rest of the story, I missed one. One tiny little microscopic terrorist and terrorizing it was. Seems ticks have an added bonus to the list of diseases they can transmit, allergic reactions.
Arriving home at 4:00 am, I did not find the little culprit until rising at around 10:00 am with a very red, painful, swollen armpit and arm to fingers, chest, and neck; in addition, nausea and a headache. Now, I am not usually prone to worry, but frankly, this was disturbing and new to my repertoire of considerable tick bite history.
Signs of an allergic reaction
Signs of an allergic reaction to a tick bite include swelling or pain at the site of the bite, a rash, skin blisters, difficulty breathing, uncoordinated movement and general weakness. Symptoms of a tick-borne disease may include swollen lymph nodes, fever, weakness, headache, stiff neck, muscle or joint aches and a rash and in extreme cases anaphylactic shock.
Gratefully, I downed some antibiotics and recovered. I think most readers are fairly familiar with Lyme disease and its debilitating effect if untreated, and it tops the list:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Relapsing fever
- Colorado tick fever
- Tick paralysis
- South African tick-bite fever for the world travelers.
More tick transmitted diseases
- Bartonella – Bartonella strains are bacterial parasites transmitted through flea or tick bites. Bartonella can infect humans, dogs, cats, and rodents. And invades red blood cells and uses the cell’s membrane as protection while multiplying and can cause multiple ailments depending upon the strain. It is responsible for Cat-scratch fever in humans. A blood test is required for diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics.
- Meningoencephalitis – is an inflammatory disease caused by numerous tick-borne viruses, and infects the brain, spinal cord, and their surrounding membranes. The result of infection is a loss of nervous system function. Fever, pain, convulsions, and paralysis are symptoms of infection, with rapid onset and can be fatal. A spinal tap provides a diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics and anticonvulsants follows.
- Tetanus – known as lockjaw, keep your tetanus shot up to date, ten years is a long time to remember, write it down.
Ticks give new meaning to terrorism.
How to remove a tick
My theory, any way you can and fast, however with tweezers is best. The goal is not to create a backflow of secretions by squeezing the body and increasing your chance of infection. Easier perhaps before the unwanted dinner guest gorges on prime corn fed red blood cells.
How to protect yourself
There is a chemical product known as Permethrin and is the active ingredient used to kill head lice. Permethrin kills parasites and their eggs on contact. Tom Grier has a great write up on the subject of Permethrin.
Lizards slow lyme disease
Science discovered another better and safer weapon, the Western Fence Lizard. Unbelievable, here are the facts to date – “Lizards Slow Lyme Disease in West, by Sabin Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, April 17, 1998
“It may sound like witchcraft, but Berkeley scientists have found that ticks who feast on the blood of the common western fence lizard are purged of any Lyme disease bacteria hiding in their gut.
The newly published findings may explain why there is less tick-borne Lyme disease in California than in the eastern United States, where the debilitating illness was first discovered and given its name.
Researchers suspect that a yet-to-be-identified protein in the lizard’s blood destroys the microbes that would otherwise flourish in the tick’s belly and can be later transmitted to human victims.
“We’ve speculated on this for years, and now we have fairly good evidence that this is the case,” said Robert Lane, a University of California at Berkeley insect biologist who has been studying ticks and Lyme disease for more than a decade…more.”
The best defense against ticks is awareness! Hey, questions, comments, stories, or suggestions, we want to hear it all. Warm up those flanges and send us some feedback so we know you’re still breathing.