Ticks can be found in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, especially along sides of trails. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not fly, jump, or fall out of trees. Adult ticks wait on the tips of vegetation with legs outstretched for people or other animal hosts to pass by, while the tiny nymphs that are about the size of a poppy seed are commonly found in leaf litter or on logs and branches. After a tick grasps onto a host, it will crawl in search of a suitable location to attach to the skin. Generally speaking, the longer the tick stays attached, the higher the risk of disease transmission. The tick may remain attached for many hours or several days, after which it will drop off the host.
The MSMVCD lab conducts tick surveillance in various areas within Marin and Sonoma counties. Testing results indicate that an average of 3-5% of ticks collected are infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. While the percentage may appear low, it only takes one bite from an infected tick to transmit a tick-borne disease such as Lyme disease.
"The best defense against ticks is you," stated Nizza Sequeira, Public Relations Director for the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito & Vector Control District. "Take personal protection measures before, during, and after being in tick habitat, no matter what time of year it is."
Here are some additional suggestions for avoiding tick bites:
- Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants.
- Apply repellent containing DEET (at least 20% concentration) on exposed skin.
- Stay on designated trails.
- Periodically check yourself for ticks while in nature.
- Shower after being in tick habitat to help detect ticks. Continue to periodically check your body for several days after you have been in tick habitat. Pay close attention to the hairline, waistline, armpits, and other places where clothing is constricted. Carefully examine children and pets as well.
- Remove ticks promptly and correctly. Do not squish, burn, smother or twist ticks.
- Ideally, use tweezers to grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull it straight out.
- Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water after tick removal.
Symptoms of Lyme disease may include an expanding "bulls-eye" rash usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms, such as body aches and fever. If you become ill after being bitten by a tick, consult your physician.
If Lyme disease is left untreated, the infection may spread to other parts of the body, with many patients experiencing severe pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Untreated patients may also develop cardiac or chronic neurological problems, such as numbness or tingling in the hands or feet and short term memory loss.
The public is invited to the District's 100 Year Anniversary Open House on May 30th to learn more about ticks and tick-bite prevention.