State officials warn tick prevalence high, offer tips to avoid bites

From staff reports

Officials in Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration say the prevalence of ticks in Pennsylvania is high right now, and they are pointing out the numerous diseases ticks can carry while reminding residents of ways to protect themselves.

“Ticks are most active during warmer months, which is why we typically see more instances of tick bites and cases of tick-borne diseases this time of year,” said Dr. Denise Johnson, the state’s acting physician general. “This year in particular, we are seeing increases in the number of Lyme disease reports, and clinicians are reporting that they are seeing more cases of other tick-borne diseases, such as anaplasmosis,” Johnson added.

Johnson urged residents to wear insect repellent, put permethrin on their shoes, gear, and clothing, and do frequent tick checks when headed outdoors.

Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the DEP has collected two times more blacklegged tick nymphs compared to last year. He said this is especially concerning considering the extremely small, poppy seed-like size of the nymphs.

“The increase in nymphs really drives home the message that we all need to adhere to the necessary precautions to stay safe from ticks,” said McDonnell.

The Wolf Administration listed simple ways to reduce the risk of tick bites:

– Cover exposed skin with lightweight and light-colored clothing– Avoid tick-infested habitats such as areas dense with shrubbery or tall grass

– Use an EPA-approved insect repellent

– Once returning home, immediately check yourself, children, and pets for ticks

– Take a shower immediately to remove ticks that may be crawling on skin

– If possible, dry clothing and gear in a dryer to kill any ticks

“It is always important to take preventative measures so you can enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of being in the outdoors, especially with regard to ticks,” said Cindy Dunn, secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Common signs of a tick disease include fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches. Lyme disease is often characterized by a bullseye-like rash, although Lyme disease may not always present itself with this obvious sign.

Additional symptoms of Powassan virus may include vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, or even seizures in severe cases. While transmission for Lyme disease from tick to human takes about 24 hours or more, Powassan transmission from a tick bite can happen in as little as 15 minutes.