It is tick season, folks. The cold winter apparently didn’t make any difference;  if anything the snow cover provided insulation for the eggs. The ‘deer ticks’ or black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) carry the Lyme bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi). They can overwinter or travel on migrating birds or animals or on the Snow Birds returning from the U.S. Walking in the woods or long grass increases the chance that one will hitch a ride on you. One home preventive remedy that has been recommended is to spray your clothes – at least your pant legs -with vinegar. Apparently ticks don’t like the smell. Deet is one of the commercial preventatives on the market. Putting your pant legs inside socks, wearing a hat and long sleeves help somewhat too.

Check your body if you possibly can when you come in from an outing. A tick will wander about on your body for a bit, before deciding to dig in. Try to catch it before it penetrates your skin. If you find one embedded, lift it out gently with a tick lifter (available at any vet clinic or if you need a trip to Lee Valley Tools they sell them for $7.95) – or anything that resembles a tiny fork. Slide it under the body and lift and twist and lift gently. Don’t use tweezers if possible, as that squeezes the mouth parts, releasing the bacteria.

Go to emergency services, with the tick in a clean container. Ask for the tick to be tested and for you to receive the results. (For one Islander it took months to receive a POSITIVE result.) Urgently request a single oral antibiotic preventive dose. Within 48 hours that is deemed a sufficient preventative. If the tick is not yet swolled (engorged) it is less likely to have released the bacteria it may be carrying.

Do not accept the suggestion that you wait for the ‘bull’s eye rash’ that can result some days later. It is not a guaranteed diagnostic tool, does not always appear, and waiting simply allows the bacteria to spread in your body. Recent reports have suggested that the Black Legged Tick may also be carrying the “Powassan virus”. It’s a rare condition that produces symptoms similar to Lyme disease, but more severe, and there’s no cure.

Don’t panic. Not all ticks are black-legged ticks, and not all black-legs carry the virus. But take prevention seriously and take action if you find one embedded in your loved ones. – Sally Bowen

Reproduced by permission of  BCRC Newsletter


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