Help flatten another curve: Tick-borne illness in PA leads country
Unfortunately, ticks do not abide by shutdown orders.
The COVID-19 pandemic is troublesome enough, but spring is in full swing. More and more, we’re mixing warm and sunny days.
And, while spending time outside in nature is among the preferred ways to combat the anxiety that accompanies this coronavirus crisis, it is tick season.
That’s of particular importance in Pennsylvania, which reported 73,610 tick-borne disease cases between 2004 and 2016, the highest of any state in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overall, tick-borne illnesses are on the rise across the United States, and that means prevention needs to be on everyone’s mind.
These tiny arachnids feed on the blood of mammals, birds and other creatures. They can be infected with bacteria, viruses or parasites, and the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania recognizes 11 different tick-borne illnesses that have been identified in this state.
The leader, of course, is Lyme disease, but we must also be aware of the following: Deer Tick Virus, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, mycoplasmosis, bartonellosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tularemia and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness.
You don’t need to memorize the names of these diseases, but it’s wise to know that not all of them are treatable.
So, as you and your loved ones spend more time outdoors this spring and summer, please understand the risk of tick-borne illness and know how to protect yourself.
That means wearing appropriate clothing, using environmentally safe insect repellent, and taking other precautionary measures, like checking your hair and body for ticks after outdoor time, particularly in wooded areas, bushes, high grass or leaf litter.
Also, be on the lookout for symptoms associated with tick-borne diseases, which can include body and muscle aches, fever, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, rash and more.
If you find a tick attached to your skin, do not panic. Remove it as soon as possible. The most common way to do so is with fine-tipped tweezers, with which you should grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible, then pull upward with steady, even pressure.
Clean skin thoroughly afterward with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
If you can save the tick and would like to have it tested, place it in a sealed plastic bag. Make note of when the bite occurred and where you most likely acquired the tick. Visit ticklab.org and choose which diseases to test the tick for, and then mail the tick to the tick lab at East Stroudsburg University. Once the tick is received, you will receive your results within three business days.
This information will be invaluable to your doctor if you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing the tick. Call your doctor and share the Tick Lab’s report with him or her. The report will provide valuable information to your doctor as they determine the most appropriate treatment for you.
You’ll also want to report all tick-borne diseases – confirmed or suspected – to the Pennsylvania Department of Health disease surveillance system, PA-NEEDS, at https://www.nedss.state.pa.us/nedss/default.aspx.