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Tick season heats up

This year's tick season is not expected to be any worse than the two previous years. But one tick can be too many for some people. "I'm not sure that this year is actually any worse, but it's good that people are concerned," said Laura Cronquist,...

A sign warns about tick habitat at a campground, with camping tents in the background in the midst of the forest. (iStock photo)
A sign warns about tick habitat at a campground, with camping tents in the background in the midst of the forest. (iStock photo)

This year's tick season is not expected to be any worse than the two previous years. But one tick can be too many for some people.

"I'm not sure that this year is actually any worse, but it's good that people are concerned," said Laura Cronquist, state epidemiologist "Most of the ticks that we have in North Dakota are American dog ticks. We do also have deer ticks, and there are some other species of ticks that don't prefer humans as hosts."

The dermacentor variabilis, or American dog tick, is known to potentially spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever but is not a transmitter of Lyme disease, according to Orkin.com.

However, Brandi Mantz, a veterinarian assistant at the West Dakota Veterinary clinic, says the clinic has treated several cases of Lyme disease this year spread by the American dog tick, not just the red deer tick.

"The ticks have actually been out a really long time already," Mantz said. "Normally they don't come out on average, I'd say, until about May."

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A mild winter and an early warming have contributed to the early tick season, Mantz said.

"We have seen ticks as early as the beginning of April here, which is kind of crazy for North Dakota. So a lot of people have been treating for ticks already, but we definitely should be treating for ticks right now if you have animals."

There are many old wives' tales for removing a tick in its engorged state. Techniques range from burning the insect to get it to withdraw from its host, to putting nail polish remover or Vaseline on the pest. The correct way to remove the tick, according to Cronquist, is to simply remove the head with a pair of tweezers.

"Use tweezers and try to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible," Cronquist said. "Definitely don't use anything like nail polish or nail polish remover, Vaseline - stuff like that isn't recommended. There's a lot of old wives' tales about that, but just use tweezers and pull up with a fluid, slow motion - don't jerk. The mouth part can actually come off."

Cronquist says the best way to prevent a tick bite is to use an Environmental Protection Agency-recommended insect repellent and to be sure to reapply generously. Tuck your shirt into your pants, or wear long pants and tuck the legs of your pants into your socks. Another means of defense is to wear clothing treated with permethrin.

"Your boots or shoes can be treated with permethrin," Cronquist said. "Don't put it on your skin. Definitely read the label if you buy any type of products used to treat tick prevention."

According to a North Dakota Department of Health news release, the most common symptoms of tick-borne diseases include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain. Early detection of tick-borne diseases is important to prevent potentially severe complications, so people should seek medical care if they develop symptoms of tick-borne diseases after spending time outdoors.

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