Tick-Talk: Protect Yourself Against Tick-Borne Diseases

It’s that time of the year again, tick season.

Do you know that some of the most common tick-borne diseases found throughout the Maryland/DC/Virginia areas are Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and STARI disease?

Are you adequately protecting yourself and your family from tick-borne diseases?

Symptoms

Have you ever felt any of these symptoms: fever/chills, aches, pains (including headaches), and fatigue? Many of us have, and it doesn’t mean you have tick-borne disease, but you could. Ticks found in Maryland can carry Lyme disease transmitted by the blacklegged tick, Anaplasmosis transmitted by the blacklegged tick, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) transmitted by the American dog tick, and STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) transmitted by the lone star tick.

Prevention

Before going out to areas known to harbor ticks, treat clothing and gear with 0.5 percent permethrin products. Permethrin remains protective through several washings. It can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear. Adults can use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) or Para-menthane-diol (PMD). Always follow product instructions, and be careful of their use with small children. Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old and do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old. Over the counter products containing DEET are approved for use on children.

While outdoors, avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass/leaf litter and walk in the center of trails. Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, paying close attention to under the arms, in and around the ears, back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around the waist.

What can I do with an embedded tick?

If a tick is embedded in your skin, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this occurs seek medical attention to ensure the entire tick is removed.

In cases of ticks embedded in humans, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Environmental Health (EH) Service can assist. First, if you remove an embedded tick from your skin, seek medical attention. Your health-care provider may choose to either test you for a tick-borne disease and/or may treat you preventively for tick-borne infections. Second, you may choose to place the tick in a sealed bag or container and deliver the package to the EH team, which will in turn submit the specimen for tick borne disease testing. The EH point of contact can be reached at 301-400-3870.

Pets

Pets are also very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Vaccines are not available for most of the tick-borne diseases of dogs. Treating your pet with repellant can prevent the pet from getting infected and bringing ticks into your home. Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any tick prevention products to your cats without first asking your veterinarian. Fort Meade, Maryland veterinarians, which services WRNMMC, will take a tick that has been embedded in your pets and send it to the Vector-Borne Zoonosis Detection Laboratory (VBZDL).The VBZDL is able to run a variety of tests to determine if the tick or pet carries tick-borne disease. Animals that are positive for tick-borne diseases are often treated with the same systemic antibiotics used in humans. For more pet related questions, please contact the Fort Meade Branch, US Army Public Health Activity at 301-677-1318.

What are we doing for you?

WRNMMC Environmental Health Service conducts tick surveys to determine the establishment of tick populations on Naval Support Activity Bethesda. Physical “tick drags” are conducted on NSAB. The objective in collecting ticks is to submit samples for testing to identify if ticks collected on the installation carry disease pathogens. This allow us to assess the risk of human tick-borne infection and educate the WRNMMC population on proper procedures to protect themselves from tick-borne infections. For further assistance you can contact them at 301-400-3870.

For more information on tick-borne diseases and prevention, please access the following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html.