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With A Tick-Heavy Year In Our Midst, How To Best Prevent These Pests And Their Dangers

Wed, 23 Jun 2021 11:47:51 CDT

With A Tick-Heavy Year In Our Midst, How To Best Prevent These Pests And Their Dangers Tick activity is on the rise in Oklahoma, thanks to recent humidity levels, resulting in a favorable year for ticks and an unfortunate one for the rest of us.

Associate Farm Director, KC Sheperd, caught up with Oklahoma State University professor of parasitology, Susan Little, and she said, “In Oklahoma, activity by the Lone Star tick usually peaks in May, but with all the rain we’ve had it slowed them up a little. American dog ticks and Gulf Coast ticks are both active right now, too.”

Little said the extra humidity Oklahoma has experienced is prolonging the life span of ticks and is providing ticks more time to find hosts to latch onto in the environment.

Oklahoma has a lot of tick diversity, but the Lone Star tick species is the state’s most populous. These creatures tend to stick to wooded areas where there is dense vegetation, leaf litter and tall grasses, Little said.

With tick activity on the rise, so also is the potential for related infection and illnesses. The two most concerning tick-borne sicknesses in Oklahoma are Rocky Mountain spotted tick fever and ehrlichiosis, which typically peaks in June and July, Little said. Ticks also can sometimes transmit dangerous viruses.

Diseases caused by ticks have been on the rise across the country, more than doubling between 2006 to 2016, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Little said should a tick latch onto a pet or person, the key action is to remove it as quickly as possible. The sooner it is removed, the less chance there is for the tick to have transmitted a disease, she added.

When checking for attached ticks, it’s helpful to know that each species tends to pick a favorite body area. Lone Star ticks are most often found below the waist; American dog ticks are typically found on the scalp.

“As soon as you find the tick, go ahead and remove it. Using tweezers, grasp it close to the skin and use slow, steady rear retraction to pull it out,” Little said.

Once the tick is removed, Little recommends saving the tick by putting it in the freezer in case the host gets sick or shows symptoms of illness. This allows the opportunity to get the tick tested and to then see if it carried any specific diseases.

Symptoms usually arise within two weeks, so if they occur one can take the tick to an acute care clinic and present it to the physician so to help them pinpoint what infection they are dealing with.

Little advises the following prevention methods to limit ticks:

-Keep the grass mowed and close to the ground.
-Consider wearing long, light-colored pants and long-sleeved shirts. You can even tape your pant leg to your shoes and your shirt cuffs around your wrists.
-Treat clothing with permethrin, which is available at most sporting goods stores. This is the most helpful substance in preventing ticks, Little said.
-Make sure your pets are protected with a tick control agent.
-Take part in “tickscaping.” If you have short grass around your home and a wooded border that is away from your home, spray the wooded edge as a way to keep ticks from coming into the grassy area.

OSU experts urge pet families to check for ticks regularly and administer commercially available preventatives, which can be applied topically or orally. Chemically infused collars are available now that can last for as long as eight months, Little said. 
“It’s such a simple step to take to prevent so many problems ticks cause,” she said.

People are most likely to notice the blood-sucking phase of any particular tick species. After adults feed enough, the larval and nymph stages develop later – in the case of Lone Star, that tick species doesn’t actually settle down until late August or September, quietly preparing for next year.

Additional tick guidance is available online from OSU Extension.

To hear KC’s complete interview with Susan Little, click or tap below.


right-click to download mp3


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