DCHD Reminder: Protect Yourself and Your Pet Against Ticks This Summer

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Released: June 3, 2024

DCHD Reminder: Protect Yourself and Your Pet Against Ticks This Summer

With summer only two weeks away, the Delaware County Health Department is reminding residents to take precautions to protect themselves and their pets against ticks. When the weather gets warmer, outdoor activities and the potential for tick bites increase.

"According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH), Lyme disease cases in 2024 have shown a similar trend to the previous year to this point,” said Delaware County Health Department Director Melissa Lyon. “However, the peak season for Lyme disease cases typically occurs during the hotter months and residents should take proper precautions as we get ready for summer. Use repellants, check for ticks, and shower after being outdoors."

Ticks can spread illnesses, including Lyme disease, and can potentially make you or your pets very sick. Lyme disease, the bacterial disease transmitted by deer ticks, is the most commonly reported tickborne disease in Pennsylvania.

Lyme disease is an illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. These bacteria are carried by the black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick. When an infected tick bites, it can transfer bacteria under the skin, leading to infection. If diagnosed and treated early, many patients recover. However, if not diagnosed or treated early, Lyme disease can develop into a chronic illness that leads to long-term, serious health problems and reduced quality of life. In rare cases, Lyme disease can result in death.

Whether you are hitting the hiking trails, tending to your garden, or out for a walk with your dog, ticks can bite.

There are ways to prevent tick bites and the diseases associated with them!

First, know their habitats

Ticks are typically found in wooded areas, in areas of high rodent and animal activity, and in high vegetation. Larval and nymphal ticks can be picked up from leaf litter or any organic ground cover as well as low woods edge vegetation. Adult ticks generally climb onto grass, shrubs, or high vegetation and wait with their forelegs stretched. This position is called “questing”. As a tick’s prey passes by and brushes up against the questing tick, it can latch on and feed.

Secondly, protect yourself

When out in nature, stay on the beaten path and out of thick, overgrown vegetation when ticks are active. There are also many repellents available such as Picaridin and Permethrin. When applied to clothing, Permethrin is not only good at repelling ticks, but it also kills them. When using Permethrin, it is important to remember that it must be applied to clothing and dried before putting them on! Protective clothing is also key to preventing tick bites. Clothing like long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats are protective against bug bites and you can further protect yourself by tucking your pants into your boots.

Check for Ticks

Always check for ticks when returning from areas that resemble the habitats described above. Tick bites are most commonly found in and around your hair, ears, underarms, belly button, waist, legs, and behind the knees. If a tick is found burrowed in the skin, do not use alcohol or repellents, as they may regurgitate infected saliva into you.

To remove a tick that has burrowed into the skin, use tweezers to grasp the tick by its mouthpart and pull it directly out. After the tick is removed wash the area, and if a rash appears after, seek medical attention.

Check out the Tickborne Diseases Dashboard

The PA Department of Health launched a Tickborne Diseases Dashboard this year to help residents and institutions track TBD.

The dashboard can be found at https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Vectorborne%20Diseases/Pages/Tick%20Diseases.aspx

Prior to 2022, reported cases were required to have a combination of clinical and laboratory findings to meet the national CDC/CSTE case definition. Beginning in 2022, high incidence states like Pennsylvania adopted a lab only case definition in which cases are reported based on positive laboratory reports alone and do not require clinical findings. Due to the decreased burden on both health care providers and public health personnel, this is projected to increase reported case counts in Pennsylvania and other high incidence states.

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About Delaware County

Delaware County, presently consisting of over 184 square miles divided into forty-nine municipalities is the oldest settled section of Pennsylvania.

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