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Tips to Prepare for Deer Tick Season

Here's five things you need to know about deer ticks and Lyme disease as tick season begins.

The mild winter coupled with the warmer than usual spring has brought an early start to deer tick season in the area.

With all the outdoor space in Wrentham, it is important to know a little bit about ticks and Lyme disease.

According to a report issued in April 2011 by the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight and titled, "Lyme Disease in Massachusetts: A Public Health Crisis," Suffolk and Middlesex counties reported a combined 702 cases of Lyme disease in 2009, the last year from which official numbers are available. In total, 4,045 cases were reported in Massachusetts that year.

5 Things You Need to Know About Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease

What are deer ticks?

Deer ticks are tiny – about the size of a sesame seed, according to a University of Rhode Island fact sheet. Males are black; females have a brick-red abdomen and a black shield near the head. Females swell to 1/4 mm when fully engorged after feeding. They can carry and spread Lyme disease through a tiny bite. Lyme disease can cause serious joint, heart or central nervous system problems if it is not recognized early in the disease process and treated appropriately. They can be found in grassy areas, open fields, and especially the margin where fields meet wooded areas. They feed mainly on deer but humans can be accidental hosts.

What can you do to prevent tick bites?

  • Apply repellents that contain DEET or permethrin.
  • Keep your grass cut short and clear brush.
  • Avoid areas of low-lying bushes and plants.
  • Wear clothing that covers skin, i.e. long-sleeved shirts and long pants. For added protection, tuck your pants into your socks

How to remove a tick? 

If you find a tick on your body, remove it as soon as possible. Use a pair of fine point tweezers to remove a tick from your skin. Grip the tick by its head as close to your skin as possible, applying steady pressure as you pull straight out (slowly and firmly). Disinfect the bitten area with antiseptic after tick is removed.

Call your doctor if …

You were bitten and experience a fever, headache, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, sore/aching muscles or if you develop a “bull’s-eye” rash in the area of the bite.

Understanding the life cycle of ticks

According to the Center for Disease Control, blacklegged ticks, which carry the disease, live for two years and have three feeding stages: larvae, nymph, and adult. Tick eggs are laid in the spring and hatch as larvae in the summer. Larvae feed on mice, birds, and other small animals in the summer and early fall. When a young tick feeds on an infected animal, the tick takes bacteria into its body along with the blood meal, and it remains infected for the rest of its life. After this initial feeding, the larvae become inactive as they grow into nymphs. The following spring, nymphs seek blood meals in order to fuel their growth into adults. When the tick feeds again, it can transmit the bacterium to its new host. Usually the new host is another small rodent, but sometimes the new host is a human. Most cases of human illness occur in the late spring and summer when the tiny nymphs are most active and human outdoor activity is greatest. Adult ticks feed on large animals, and sometimes on humans. In the spring, adult female ticks lay their eggs on the ground, completing the life cycle. Although adult ticks often feed on deer, these animals do not become infected. Deer are nevertheless important in transporting ticks and maintaining tick populations.

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