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Don’t be bugged by ticks, mosquitoes

Four stages of tick family from largest female to smallest larva.

The Lone Star Tick is widely distributed in the southeastern and eastern United States. It can transmit Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii (which cause human ehrlichiosis), tularemia, and STARI. It is a very aggressive tick that bites humans. The nymph and adult females most frequently bite and transmit disease. The adult female is distinguished by a white dot or “lone star” on her back. Lone star tick saliva can be irritating causing redness and discomfort at a bite site but it does not necessarily indicate an infection. (Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Four stages of a tick family, from largest female tick to baby larva.

The American Dog tick is widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains, and also occurs in limited areas on the Pacific Coast. It can transmit Tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Adult females are most likely to bite humans, and people have the highest risk of being bitten during spring and summer. Dog ticks are sometimes called wood ticks. (Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Summer’s here in Arkansas. People are working outdoors and having fun in the sun. From days at the lake and picnics, to camping, hiking and yard work, it’s time to feel the fresh air, catch some sun and enjoy what the Natural State has to offer.

 

Unfortunately, some of what Arkansas has to offer this season includes some unpleasant insects such as ticks and mosquitoes that can impart disease and discomfort whenever they bite.

 

Ticks

“Ticks are our biggest problem,” said Maj. Earl Thomas, 19th Aerospace Medical Squadron public health flight commander. “People are exposed more as they are out hiking and camping. The ticks are hatching or coming out of their dormant stage right now and are super hungry and ready to take a meal.”

 

The risk of contacting ticks increases in the early morning, up until direct sunlight depending on the location. When people get into wooded trails though, the risk is all day long.

 

Another danger zone for ticks is the transition area from wooded areas to manicured lawns. Ticks are waiting in that area to hitchhike on any carbon-dioxide exhaling, warm-blooded creature walking through it. The same goes for high grass, while leaf and bark litter and wood piles are where they hide during the day.

 

“The ticks that are out now, some people call seed ticks or an immature stage of an adult tick, are harder to see sometimes, so people are having ticks stay on them longer,” Thomas said.

 

Timing is important with ticks as the longer they stay on, the more chance they have to transmit a disease. With most tick-borne diseases it takes four to six hours to transmit, so when done with any outdoor adventure, make sure to check for ticks because the sooner they are removed the better.

 

“Right now we have two cases of Lyme disease and five cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever on the base,” said 1st Lt. Allan Licudan, 19th AMS public health officer. “In 2017 we had five cases total, but now we have five so far, and it’s expected to rise."

 

 “It’s important that if you find a tick, make sure you bring it to us,” Thomas added. “We have kits where we can send it off to have it tested for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease or any of the diseases that a tick can carry, as getting ill can impact the mission, school and family life.”

The best way to remove a tick, and approved by the Center for Disease Control, is to use tweezers on the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently but steadily pull it off. Thomas says any other method such as alcohol or other backyard remedies can actually increase the potential for disease transmission.                                                

Of course, it’s best to avoid getting ticks on you whenever possible. When outdoors in possible tick-infested areas, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt with t-shirt; tuck pants into boots and t-shirt into trousers, and wear sleeves down and snugly fastened at the wrist.

"Also when outdoors we recommend the use of Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellants on exposed skin,” Thomas said. A list of registered products and additional information can be found on the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and EPA websites that follow: https://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dvbd/about/prevent-bites.html,  https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you.

 

Mosquitoes

Like ticks, mosquitoes can transmit diseases. The West Nile virus is an issue in Arkansas, and the Zika virus is still a concern for anyone travelling to Central or South America.

 

A key to controlling mosquitoes is to understand that they prefer man-made habitats. Everything from a small children’s pool in the backyard and water puddling on tarps, to clogged gutters and planters with water in trays are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Eliminating that water is the most effective means of controlling them.

 

“If somebody has an unkempt pool or birdbath, they’re breeding mosquitoes that will fly out a football field or two away from that source. That’s a lot of backyards impacted,” Thomas said.

 

Community members can augment the personal protection methods mentioned above with other readily available products.

 

“The little fans you clip on that release DEET are great for sitting on your deck or in the bleachers at a sports event,” Thomas said. “Citronella products also help to keep them away from you.”

 

Arkansas has a large variety of ticks and mosquitoes, and the diseases they carry are as varied. A good place to learn about the different insects and diseases they carry is the Arkansas Department of Health website, www.healthy.arkansas.gov.