I know this because I started getting a string of texts on ticks early on and lasting into the afternoon from Dr. Lee B. Smith, Monongalia County Health Department’s executive director and county health officer.
It was a follow-up from his message the day before, that with spring turkey hunting season beginning, we should start reminding the public about ticks and tick-borne diseases.
Such as this acronym that boils tick prevention down to the word BLAST—B for bathing or showering after returning from outside; L for looking and inspecting for ticks at hairlines, skin creases, the groin, etc.; A for applying repellents to clothing and skin; S for spraying the yard with DEET, an insect repellent; and T, for treating pets.
The Vector Summit, by the way, is hosted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), to which MCHD and around 2,799 other health departments belong.
As the name implies, the conference was to help local mosquito and tick management professionals increase their capacities to detect, prevent, prepare for and respond to vector-borne diseases by providing the latest information on the topic.
At MCHD, Jamie Moore, manager of our Threat Preparedness program, is our mosquito and tick management professional. He spends time out in the field during the warmer months, trapping mosquitoes so they can be tested for diseases.
What kind of diseases, you ask? Let me check my messages.
“West Virginia has many tick species but three commonly carry disease: black-legged tick, also called deer tick. Carries bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
“American dog tick, aka wood tick, probably the most commonly encountered, and can carry the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia and tick paralysis.
The Lone Star Tick can cause red meat allergy.”
The red meat allergy had been addressed in a previous text:
“The Lone Star Tick has been associated with imparting red meat allergy from the tick's saliva injecting a sugar called alpha gal that can cause a range of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, three-eight hours after eating red meat. Little is known about this allergy therefore, prevention is key.”
So how do we prevent ticks?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has extensive information on ticks at cdc.gov/ticks, people should:
• Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Also, treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin.
• Treat dogs and cats for ticks as recommended by a veterinarian.
• Check for ticks daily, especially under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and on the hairline and scalp.
• Shower soon after being outdoors.
• Learn more about landscaping techniques that can help reduce blacklegged tick populations in the yard.
And, from the Tick Summit:
“After showering and checking for ticks, you can put your clothing in the dryer on high heat for 15 minutes.”
If you do find a tick on yourself, a loved one or a pet, use tweezers to remove it. “Pull the head directly up. Do not use your fingers, as this tends to squeeze whatever disease the tick is carrying into you.” Don’t dig if the entire tick doesn’t come out. “Just wash with soap and water and cover with an antibiotic cream.”
And finally, an invasive tick that arrived in the United States in 2017 has spread to 11 states, including West Virginia. The diseases this type of tick carries are unknown, but they swarm. This “can be a tremendous burden to animals.”
So, make sure to look out for any livestock and pets that you have. Use tick prevention and make sure, as the song “Ticks” by West Virginia native Brad Paisley implores, to check them for ticks.