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Part 3 – Everything You Need To Know About Ticks and the Diseases They Can Spread

In the two previous month’s issues of Safety Tips, we have focused on Spring & Summer “Natures Field Hazards”. Continuing with that theme, this month’s issue will focus on ticks and the diseases they can spread.

Lyme disease is probably the most well known of the tick-borne disease s that we all hear about. In fact, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United States today, accounting for more than 95% of all reported cases. In the United States , the reported incidence of Lyme disease is greatest in the Northeast (particularly New England), mid-Atlantic, and upper-Midwest regions, and to a lesser extent on the Pacific Coast . Lyme disease was first identified in the area of Lyme , Connecticut around 1982, hence its name.

Adult Blacklegged (Deer) Tick

Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria transmitted to humans (and pets) by the bite of infected small blacklegged ticks (commonly called deer ticks) in the northeastern United States and western-blacklegged ticks on the Pacific Coast.

NOTE: The illustration shows an eNlarged image of a deer tick on the left and and the actual size on the right

It is a chronic debilitating disease, but Lyme disease is rarely fatal. The infection however, can cause serious long-term joint, heart and nervous system problems, if not recognized and treated early.

Currently, no vaccine is available to protect humans against Lyme disease. Since the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are transmitted through tick bites, the most important things you can do are to avoid ticks and check yourself for ticks frequently if there is any possible exposure to ticks. Carefully remove any attached tick as soon as possible. The longer an infected tick remains attached to your body, the higher the likelihood of disease transmission. Favorite places ticks like to go on your body include areas between the toes, back of the knees, groin, armpits, neck, along the hairline, and behind the ears. Use fine point tweezers to grip the mouthparts of the tick as close to the skin as possible. The tick should not be squeezed or twisted, but pulled straight outward with steady, gentle pressure.

Use repellents that contain DEET or permethrin to reduce the risk of tick bites. DEET is safe and effective in repelling ticks when used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Choose a product that will provide sufficient protection for the amount of time spent outdoors. Product labels often indicate the length of time that someone can expect protection from a product. Products containing DEET should not be used on children less than 2 months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% and lower for older children and adults.

Permethrin-containing products kill ticks but are not designed to be applied to the skin. Clothing should be treated and allowed to dry in a well-ventilated area prior to wearing. Because permethrin binds very tightly to fabrics, once the fabric is dry, very little of the permethrin gets onto the skin.

You can reduce the number of ticks around your home by keeping your grass cut short and clearing brush.

Unfortunately, in addition to Lyme disease, there are a number of other tick-borne illnesses that are attributed to the bite of infected ticks, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever for example.. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an excellent web site entitled: “Spotlight Tick Tips”. This site provides a wealth of information regarding ticks, the recognition of Lyme disease and its symptoms, as well as important information regarding other diseases that can be spread by ticks. You can click here.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts , Department of Public Health, provided references for the above information.

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