Agency reports ticks with Lyme disease in foothills
More ticks than usual for this time of year are in the Sierra foothills, and some samples have found them to be infected with Lyme disease, according to the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District.
Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of infected black-legged ticks, and its characteristic symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash similar to a bull’s-eye, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
“We can’t really determine a level of risk for infected ticks,” said Ada Barros, district public information officer. “All we can say to the public is there are a lot of ticks out there and there is Lyme disease in the tick population, and to take appropriate precautions.”
Barros said the longer a tick is attached, the greater the possibility it can transmit Lyme disease, so people should inspect themselves frequently while in tick habitats and also after leaving them.
The district recommends that people, once out of tick habitat, thoroughly check their entire body for ticks up to three days after being in tick areas; parents should examine their children, especially on the scalp, hairline and skin folds.
Tick abundance is slightly higher than normal compared to last year at the same time, according to Mary Sorensen, entomologist for the district.
“Deer ticks thrive in high-moisture weather, so we can expect higher numbers during the rainy season,” she stated in a press release.
The western black-legged tick, also know as the deer tick, is prevalent December through May, Barros said, but the season can begin as early as November.
Samples are collected along the most commonly used hiking trails in the foothills using a method called flagging, where they drag a canvass over bushes and areas known to harbor ticks, she said.
The ticks are actively seeking out hosts, she added.
“They’re out questing, which is a behavior that they do when they are trying to find a host,” Barros said. “What they do is they sit pretty much as far out on the leaf or blade of vegetation as possible and actually reach their front legs out so they have them held up high like a referee holding up their arms for a touchdown.”
Some of the protective measures for fighting off mosquitoes also works for ticks, according to the district.
The organization recommends wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts and applying a repellent, such as DEET, with a concentration high enough for use against ticks (greater than 20 percent).
It also suggested hikers stay in the middle of the trail and avoid brush and grassy areas.
Jon Schultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews