Because the great outdoors is a popular destination during the pandemic, it’s important to be on the lookout for another potential threat you may not easily see: ticks.
Be alert throughout the late fall. The warmer months are the most common times when these small blood-sucking insects transmit disease.
“I always tell people that being outdoors is healthy for you. you need being outdoors, ”Risa said
Pesapane, assistant professor in the colleges of food, agricultural and environmental sciences (CFAES) and veterinary medicine at Ohio State University.
Pesapane researches ticks in Ohio. It actually thrives by traversing tick-infested areas and collecting ticks, even from deer killed by hunters. In January, Pesapane launched a study to monitor the frequency of ticks on Ohio deer and another on stray dogs.
Pesapane discussed tips on avoiding tick bites and the risks associated with each of the four main ticks found in Ohio.
Of all the ticks in Ohio, the biggest threat comes from the black-legged tick, also called the deer tick. A bite from that tick could transmit anaplasmosis, a disease that causes fever and body aches, or the more severe Lyme disease. Lyme disease has been on the rise in Ohio over the past decade. If left untreated, a person with the disease can develop various symptoms including numb or weak limbs and inflamed membranes surrounding the brain, also known as meningitis.
The other three most common ticks in Ohio are solitary ticks: one can cause a bitten person to develop an allergy to red meat and can also transmit ehrlichiosis, which causes flu-like symptoms; the American dog tick, also called the wood tick, which can cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever; and the Asian long-horned tick, which can be fatal to livestock. Those four check marks are the ones to pay the most attention to in Ohio.
So far in the United States, the Asian long-horned tick has not been shown to carry any bacteria or viruses that can cause disease in people. But we know internationally that Asian long-horned ticks transmit human disease. It may only be a matter of time before they transmit diseases to people in this country.
The Asian long-horned tick killed cattle in the United States. Ticks can swarm a cow and drain a lot of blood, or they can transmit various diseases.
The Asian long-horned mint is the newest mint in Ohio and this country. In May, a stray dog was bitten by an Asian tick in Gallia County in southern Ohio. It can multiply rapidly. A female Asian long-horned tick can breed on its own without a male, laying a couple of thousand eggs at the same time.
It is easy to take steps to prevent a tick bite. It’s as simple as wearing the right clothes. Wear pants and long sleeves. Tuck your pants into long socks.
“Tick fashion”, we call it. Most of the time, good clothing and good tick control are all it takes to limit ticks on you. But you could also put on repellent.
Ticks can be difficult to see because they can be tiny, like the Asian long-horned tick, which typically varies in size from a poppy seed to a sesame seed, depending on what stage of growth it is in and whether it is is fed.
In addition to being small, ticks often go unnoticed because people may not hear when they bite. The tick’s saliva is well evolved. It contains substances that help ticks to feed themselves: analgesics, which are numb, and also agents that block clotting so that ticks can easily suck up blood. As a result, ticks can stay on their hosts for days, up to a week. They can go unnoticed for a long period of time.
The good news is that most of the germs that ticks can transmit are not transmitted immediately. Pathogens must move from the tick’s intestine to its saliva before it can pass them on. So, if the tick is removed within the first 24-48 hours, there’s a good chance the host won’t get sick.
If bitten, absolutely do not touch the tick with your bare hands and do not apply liquids on it to try to kill it. Use tweezers, ideally flat-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Use steady pressure to pull it out. If the mouthparts of the tick have remained in the skin, do not try to extract it. This could lead to a secondary bacterial infection.
Mark the calendar when you were bitten and check for signs of illness. Contact a doctor if necessary.
For more information on ticks, u.osu.edu/bite/. To help with research on Ohio ticks, submit ticks at go.osu.edu/sendticks.