Help flatten another curve: Tick-borne illness in Pa. leads country.
Photo: Office of Rep. Kinkead
Did you know that most tick-borne illnesses are contracted in the fall and not the spring or the summer?
Adult deer ticks, the most common carrier of Lyme disease, emerge during the fall and are typically active during the winter months on days where the temperature is above 40 degrees.
In addition to Lyme disease, these ticks also can carry several other illnesses, such as Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Powassan Virus, that have been reported in the state.
Ticks typically thrive in tall grass, brush, and wooded areas, but deer ticks have been found in every county in the state and can live in any habitat.
That’s of particular importance in Pennsylvania, which reported 73,610 tick-borne disease cases between 2004 and 2016—the highest of any state in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As yet another side effect of the extended warm weather months related to climate change, tick-borne illnesses are on the rise across the United States, and that means prevention needs to be on everyone’s mind.
So, as you, your loved ones, and your pets spend more time outdoors this fall, please be aware of the risk and know how to protect yourselves!
That means wearing appropriate clothing, using environmentally safe insect repellent, and taking other precautionary measures. It takes 24 hours to transmit microbial diseases from the tick to a host, so it’s best to check yourself or your pet’s hair and body for ticks immediately after outdoor time, particularly if that time was around wooded areas, bushes, high grass, or leaf litter.
Also, be on the lookout for symptoms associated with tick-borne illnesses, which can include body and muscle aches, fever, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, rash, and more.
If you find a tick attached to you or your pet, do not panic. Remove it as soon as possible. The easiest way to do so is with fine-tipped tweezers, with which you should grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible, then pull upward with steady, even pressure.
Clean skin thoroughly afterward with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
If you can, save the tick! You can send the tick to be tested, which makes identifying—and therefore treating—tick-borne illnesses much easier. To do so, place it in a sealed plastic bag. Make note of when the bite occurred and where you most likely acquired the tick. Visit ticklab.org and choose which diseases to test the tick for, and then mail the tick to the Tick Lab at East Stroudsburg University. Once the tick is received, you should receive your results within three business days.
This information will be invaluable to your doctor if you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing the tick. Call your doctor and share the Tick Lab’s report with him or her. Knowing the possible tick-borne illness exposure will assist your doctor as she or he determines the most appropriate treatment for you (or your pet).
You’ll also want to report all tick-borne diseases—confirmed or suspected—to the Pennsylvania Department of Health disease surveillance system, PA-NEEDS, at https://www.nedss.state.pa.us/nedss/default.aspx.
So while I encourage you to enjoy the nice weather and outdoor spaces to the fullest, please be safe while you do so this fall!
And feel free to reach out to me if you have questions or need assistance, whether it be related to this or any state program or service, by calling my office at 412-321-5523 or emailing me at RepKinkead@pahouse.net.
My team and I are here to help you!