Char-Koosta News

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Itís tick time in Western Montana and time to take precautions

The dog tick is common in Montana and can be the cause of Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. (courtesy photo) The dog tick is common in Montana and can be the cause of Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. (courtesy photo)

ST. IGNATIUS ó May through July each year is the season of ticks: nasty little blood-sucking insects that feast on animals, including humans. However, the season is a tad elastic on both ends. Apparently Montana ticks are as tough as its people and have adapted to the extreme weather variations of the Big Sky State ó there have already been incidents of tick-human interaction this spring on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Consequently people should be aware of the risks related to ticks.

Every year in the United States close to 30,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to a recent national survey the CDC found that nearly 20 percent of the people in areas where Lyme disease is common were unaware of the risk. And in the areas where the disease is common, 42 percent of individuals reported taking no personal preventive measures against ticks.

Other key tick-borne diseases include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and babesiosis. The diseases tend to be concentrated in specifics parts of America including Montana with the Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Due to its low population and/or its citizensí awareness, the CDC reported six cases of tick-borne diseases in 2010 in Montana.

Nearly 95 percent of Lyme disease cases occur in 12 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

More that 60 percent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever cases occur in five states: Arkansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Babesiosis occurs in the same area as Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, mainly in the Northeast and the upper Midwest.

Ticks transmit pathogens that cause disease through the process of feeding. Depending on the tick species and its stage of life, preparing to feed can take from 10 minutes to two hours. When the tick finds a feeding spot, it grasps the skin and cuts into the surface.

The tick then inserts its feeding tube. Many species also secrete a cement-like substance that keeps them firmly attached during the meal. The feeding tube can have barbs that help keep the tick in place.

Ticks also can secrete small amounts of saliva with anesthetic properties so that the animal or person canít feel that the tick has attached itself. If the tick is in a sheltered spot, it can go unnoticed.

A tick will suck the blood slowly for several days. If the host animal has a blood-borne infection, the tick will ingest the pathogens with the blood.

Small amounts of saliva from the tick may also enter the skin of the host animal during the feeding process. If the tick contains a pathogen, the organism may be transmitted to the host animal in this way.

After feeding, most ticks will drop off and prepare for the next life stage. At its next feeding, it can then transmit an acquired disease to the new host.

The CDC says reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.

The CDC recommends that people should: avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter, and walk in the center of trails when hiking; use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours. Parents should apply repellent to children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends products with up to 30 percent DEET for children. Remember to always follow product instructions; use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear such as boots, shoes, pants, socks and tents or look for pre-treated clothing; treat dogs for ticks as they are very susceptible to tick bites and to tick-borne diseases. Dogs may also bring ticks into the home. Tick collars, sprays, shampoos, or monthly ďtop spotĒ medications help protect against ticks; bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find crawling ticks before they bite; and; conduct a full-body tick check using a handheld or full length mirror to view all parts of the body upon returning from tick-infested areas. Parents should check children thoroughly for ticks. Remove any ticks as soon as possible.

There are several tick removing devices including a set of fine-tipped tweezers. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skinís surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Donít twist or jerk the tick as this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. If that happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

The CDC recommends against folklore remedies such as painting the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. The goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible, not waiting for it to detach using the aforementioned folklore remedies.

Tick-borne diseases can cause mild symptoms to severe infections requiring hospitalization. The most common symptoms of tick-related illness can include fever/chills, aches and pains, and rash. Early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications, so contact a medical provider immediately if bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms.

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