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Take steps to reduce the threat of ticks and Lyme disease

As the temperature rises, so does their activity

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Ron Shipe clears trees and brush from his land on Lake Road Tuesday in Dryden. There is a large population of ticks on Shipe’s land, mirroring a trend across the region.

When talking about the topic of ticks, Derek Green had a few words for people to take into consideration.

“There is no season when they (ticks) are not out,” he said.

Green, a public health sanitarian with the Cortland County Health Department, said ticks are always looking for a blood source.
However, ticks are a little more active in the summer and people are a little less dressed.

New York has three common types of ticks:

– The deer, or black-legged, tick.

– The American dog tick.

– The lone star tick.

Green said the most common here in Cortland County is the deer tick. It is only the black-legged tick that can carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, according to the state Department of Health. The ticks are brown and the size of a poppy seed in their nymph stage. As adults, females are red and black while males are black. Adults are around the size of a sesame seed.

Remember that, because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they transmit a confirmed 30,000 cases of Lyme disease, and perhaps as many as 300,000 — more than triple the number of 20 years ago — yet 20 percent of people don’t realize it’s a danger.

While people may think a trip to the woods is the only place they can get a tick, think again. “They could be in your backyard,” Green said.

To reduce ticks in a person’s yard, the state Department of Health suggests keeping the lawn mowed; clearing brush and leaves that litter the yard; and keep the ground around bird feeders clean to keep from attracting any animals that may carry ticks.

Emily Shipe and her husband, Ron, have been having a problem this year with ticks latching on to their two dogs whenever they visit a 5-acre property they own in Dryden. When the couple and their dogs are done at the property they have to do a tick check.

To help deal with the issue, the Shipes bought a different type of pest control — Guinea fowl. “They are a natural repellent for the control of ticks,” Emily Shipe said this morning, explaining they eat ticks.

Shipe said she and her husband heard about the fowl from people at Country Max and decided to give it a try this year.

Taking precautions can help lower the risk of having a tick embed itself.

Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to spot, Green said. Wear long pants and tuck them into socks. Ticks are usually on the ground and will latch on to a person and climb upward.

Using an insect repellent also helps. Green suggests looking for one with the chemical, permethrin. “Spray it on your clothing and not the skin,” he said. The repellent can last on the clothing for up to two weeks in some cases, even with washing.

While dressing appropriately and using repellent can help, Green said one big thing people can do is a tick check. “I can’t stress how important that is,” he said.

People outside should check their clothes every 15 minutes to make sure they don’t have ticks crawling on them, Once they are inside, they should remove their clothes and do a thorough check, Green said.

If a tick has embedded, removing it within 24 hours can almost eliminate the threat of Lyme disease, Green said. The disease is an infection that left untreated can cause health problems to joints, the heart and the nervous system, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Symptoms of Lyme disease include a bulls-eye shaped rash; joint pain; chills; fever; and fatigue. Green said if people have a tick and experience any of those symptoms, they should seek medical attention.

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