The Department of Agriculture is part of the One Health Task Force in Pennsylvania (along with the departments of Health, Environmental Protection, and Conservation and Natural Resources), an initiative designed to show the connection between healthy humans and healthy animals supported by a healthy and sustainable environment. Deer ticks have been found in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, and Pennsylvania leads the nation in confirmed cases of Lyme Disease. Deer ticks are the primary carriers of Lyme disease, which is a zoonotic disease—or transmissible between animals and humans. So, with the start of tick season, we have a few tips for you to protect yourself and your family, including your pets.
Preventing tick bites:
- Know where to expect ticks. When you’re out enjoying nature, walk in the center of trails and avoid walking through tall bushes or vegetation.
- Keep vegetation trimmed back on your property, to reduce habitat for ticks.
- Use repellent with DEET on skin and clothing, or permethrin on clothing and gear.
- Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Pay special attention to these areas on yourself and your children: under arms, around ears, in the belly button, back of knees, all body hair, between the legs and around the waist.
- Check clothing and pets for ticks, as they can be carriers into the house. Clothing can be placed in the dryer on high-heat to kill ticks.
- Use flea and tick preventative on your pet all year long to protect them, and your family, from tick-borne diseases.
- Remove ticks with fine-tipped tweezers as soon as they’re found. The chance of getting Lyme Disease when a tick is attached for 24 hours or less is very small, but you should follow-up with your family doctor.
- After removing, thoroughly clean the bite area.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed back, wrapping it in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
- Watch for signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease over the coming weeks.
- Early signs are fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes, and the classic erythema migrans “bulls eye” rash.
- Late signs can be headaches, stiff neck, arthritis, facial palsy, heart palpitations, dizziness, or nerve pain.
- If symptoms develop, consult a physician.
When detected early, Lyme Disease can be treated with antibiotics. Left untreated, the disease can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system. Early diagnosis is important to prevent late stage complications.