Tick season is starting early

9:54 p.m. on February 26, 2012 (EST)
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Barb and I were out wandering in the Santa Cruz Mountains yesterday. When we returned home and I took my shower, I discovered I had a hitchhiker.


IMGP0009a.jpg
 If you haven't seen one before, this is a deer tick, one of the critical participants in the Lyme disease chain (update - Ixodes pacificus or Western Black-legged Tick, the western version of the deer tick and a Lyme carrier). The scale is a cm scale, so s/he is about 4 mm in length - pretty tiny.

Lyme disease is endemic to the Northeastern US, but it is found in the Santa Cruz Mountains along the San Francisco Peninsula (rarely) and a bit more common in Marin, Sonoma, and other North Bay counties.

This critter was already embedded, but "tick" tweezers, properly applied (recommended method of extraction), removed him/her. I took the critter to my Urgent Care center for full identification and checking for Lyme. It is very unlikely that there is a problem (it had not had a chance to really start the "extraction" process, even if it is an actual carrier). The full-blown consequences are arthritic-like inflamation of the joints and other nasty stuff. But Lyme is fully treatable if caught early enough.

This has been a strange winter, little rainfall (less than 1/3 normal) and moderately warm for this season).

If you are in a tick-infested area, wear closed clothing (close off the pants legs - long pants, of course), preferably permethrin-soaked, and check yourself thoroughly all over for the critters (have a friend or relative inspect all hidden areas, since the ticks love warm dark areas). They usually wander for several hours before latching on, so you can often just brush them off or even rinse them away in the shower (we were out there in the brush for something like 9 or 10 hours). If one has attached, do NOT try the old wives tales of putting a match to their back end or other similar remedies (causes them to inject their stomach contents with the viruses back into your bloodstream). Preferably use tweezers made for tick removal.

9:58 p.m. on February 26, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks for sharing and great advice.

Hoping that there is no issue with the bite.

10:35 a.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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WOW! My sister lives in Brisbane, south of S.F. She ahd a couple Schipperke pups she takes out to the hills and always searches them for tics....and quite often finds them! I do njot know what kind, however....

 

Hope all is well!

12:01 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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Ya know....

 

Contrary to what most people believe - I used to live in East Lyme, Ct and never saw a darn tick until I moved to Florida.

 

We have them all year long down here - the dogs (Border Collies) always bring a couple back to me.

7:15 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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My wife found one on herself today. Don't know where she got it from.  Usually don't see them in the city.  You have to got out a ways.

7:35 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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Yeah, well, down there in New York South, you have all sorts of critters. Like mo-skeeters that carry all sorts of vile diseases and those "waterbugs" (in 10 years in Mississippi, plus many visits to Barb's uncle in Panama City and my mother's distant cousin in Kissimee, I could never figure out how those giant brown things could scurry straight up to a wall and disappear under the molding at the floor that you couldn't fit a calling card under - and why they would reappear within 3 days after the house got tented). Then there were the giant water lizards - crocs or gaters or somethin'

It's nicer to have a couple kinds of big kitty-cats (lion and bob) wandering through the neighborhood, along with Little Brother (that's what we called "coyote" when I grew up on the reservation in Arizona). And banana slugs never hurt no one.

1:50 a.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Time to get the Permethrin out...

5:21 a.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Ocala...

with the warm winter we have had, I predict the ticks are going to be especially bad this year.

Your wife probably brushed up against some plant and the 'ole tick jumped on her for a ride.

I'm backpacking in Ga next week. Bet I see the little buggers on my socks a 1/4 mile up the trail.

10:10 a.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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What worries me is that we might have an infestation near our house.  I've lived here for ~10 years and never seen one in the neighborhood.  I grew up around here and never had to worry about them as a kid.  There just weren't any in the woods around our house.

Ticks are kind of like lice. Lice, lice, lice!  Bet your scalp is beginning to itch. Now I'm gonna be paranoid for a while.

2:09 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Hi Bill - you might consider a prophylactic dose of tetracycline.  There is some back-and-forth in the medical community as to the necessity of this, but one dose is cheap, unlikely to foster antibiotic resistance, and unlikely to cause any side effects (maybe a little stomach gurgle!).  I've done this twice now.

I've had Lyme at least twice before, and don't want to go through it again!

Best wishes for staying Lyme free!

2:39 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Got the word back just now. The tick is an Ixodes pacificus (Western Black-legged Tick), which is the western version of the deer tick. Potentially it is a carrier of Lyme. I updated the original post.

new update - the DNA results are back. No detection of Lyme DNA. So it appears I am clear.

4:22 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Wow.  They do a western blot on the Tick for Lyme?  That is amazing!  Congrats on the good result Bill! 

4:25 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Good stuff OGBO.

Glad to hear you will not turn into a "lime" colored deer. 

I hate ticks but it seems inevitable that I will not have some type of encounter with these lil blood suckers somewhere in my travels during the warmer seasons.

7:00 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Yes,

I have seen them in central PA already..

nasty things..

5:49 p.m. on February 29, 2012 (EST)
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Mild winter in Louisiana. I've picked ticks almost every month after a warm patch of weather. I hate the little seed ticks I can't see until they produce a red spot. I think my personal record was 42 after a weekender. That didn't include the 7 chiggers that called me home also. Fortunately no bad effects.

11:20 p.m. on February 29, 2012 (EST)
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Bill

How much does a test like that run?  Is it commonly available?

11:33 p.m. on February 29, 2012 (EST)
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It is readily available at your local friendly HMO or PPO if you are in tick country (most of the US and Canada). Dunno what it costs above and beyond the co-pay if you don't have medical insurance.

Best thing is to:

1. take precautions (permethrin-soaked clothing, pant legs and shirt sleeves long and closed tightly at the wrists and ankles, DEET on any exposed flesh)

2. Inspect your entire skin surface head to toe immediately after leaving suspect countryside (any brush, grass, other vegetation you come in contact with). You may need an assistant who you are willing to stare closely at all parts of your skin that you cannot easily inspect.

3. learn to identify the ticks in the part of the country you are treking in, and which carry the various diseases (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is not confined to the Rockies, despite the name).

5:17 a.m. on March 1, 2012 (EST)
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"What worries me is that we might have an infestation near our house".

 

Ocala - I've had the infestations IN the house. Two years in a row I had to get the bug guy to take care of the inside, while I poisoned the yard and treated the dogs (I absolutely hate using pesticides in my yard).

 

The favorite hiding place for the ticks are under your mattresses, under your furniture and behind drapery.

 

If you don't have animals that live inside the house, I wouldn't worry to much.

 

Price we pay for 75 degree days in February.

12:56 p.m. on March 3, 2012 (EST)
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Check that

6:36 p.m. on March 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Disgusting!!!  The fam went out for our first lil geocaching of the season yesterday, and with 4 kids (from ages 11 mos to 14yrs).. a golden retriever and a mom and dad ACHING to get outside we  were quite pumped.  Until the first one jumped on me... I literally hadn't gotten 3 yards onto the trail yet.  And then the next and next.  And our dear furry friend was flying through the brush like a magnet... sucking every single one that could've possibly been on that nice wide trail... End result:  everyone was worked on and became tick free (until today) and the dog is staying outside with her treatment kicking in... So my question... my 7 year old had a new that jumped on and sucked in today... and there's still something like a leg stuck in there and we cannot get it out... I keep swabbing rubbing alcohol and peroxide treatments and after digging for the lil splinter for so long I can't even see it behind the irritated part... any thoughts?

12:52 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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scapel

5:12 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Yep, they're out.

I was in Lusk Creek Wilderness in Southern Illinois last week for one of my classes.  While sitting on my pack during a teaching time I probably flicked 30-40 ticks off that were crawling up my legs or torso over the course of an hour. Several different types and sizes...  

Should be a fun summer.  :)

5:45 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Jessie said:

Disgusting!!!  The fam went out for our first lil geocaching of the season yesterday, and with 4 kids (from ages 11 mos to 14yrs).. a golden retriever and a mom and dad ACHING to get outside we  were quite pumped.  Until the first one jumped on me... I literally hadn't gotten 3 yards onto the trail yet.  And then the next and next.  And our dear furry friend was flying through the brush like a magnet... sucking every single one that could've possibly been on that nice wide trail... End result:  everyone was worked on and became tick free (until today) and the dog is staying outside with her treatment kicking in... So my question... my 7 year old had a new that jumped on and sucked in today... and there's still something like a leg stuck in there and we cannot get it out... I keep swabbing rubbing alcohol and peroxide treatments and after digging for the lil splinter for so long I can't even see it behind the irritated part... any thoughts?

 

I would say it's time to go to the doctor or seek medical assistance to have the remaining part of the tick removed and the bite area check out. It is specifically stated in all extrication directions that I've read that one wants to get the whole tick out at once. If any part of the tick remains, the head, in the bite wound seek medical attention.   If there is a leg stuck in there, then there is most likely a head that the leg is attached to. Most likely not to be serious but I would not take the chance.

6:48 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Permethrin!

Permethrin!

Permethrin!

It works.

8:52 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Jessie said:

 So my question... my 7 year old had a new that jumped on and sucked in today... and there's still something like a leg stuck in there and we cannot get it out... I keep swabbing rubbing alcohol and peroxide treatments and after digging for the lil splinter for so long I can't even see it behind the irritated part... any thoughts?

 Couple things - That's the mouth parts that are stuck in there. So you have probably pulled them apart, leaving pieces behind. At this point, I would highly recommend going to your Primary Care Physician, who can skillfully wield the tool that Callahan and Apeman recommend (scalpel). It is beyond the first aid or amateur home practitioner stage.

On the other hand, the human body does a good job of eventually expelling such things. You will have to keep a close look to check on developing infections, though, if you choose the wait and watch route.

I would strongly recommend that before you go out there again, you do some serious reading on (1) prevention (clothing tight at the wrists and ankles, soak clothing in permethrin, use an effective insect repellent on exposed skin such as time-release DEET or picaridin), and (2) learn the correct method of removing ticks (thin tweezers that let you get in under the body and pull directly out, removing the whole critter including all head parts - match to the tail, alcohol, nail polish, etc do not work and can cause the tick to expel the stomach contents, including all sorts of bacteria and viruses back into the victim).

12:04 a.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Permethrin is good I would have to agree

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