Preventing Lyme (And A New Disease) As Ticks Spread

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The worst tick season ever is here, and experts warn that there’s a disease deadlier than Lyme lurking in the woods. What you need to know.

A female, Amblyomma triste from a dorsal view, as it was climbing a blade of grass. (Christopher Paddock/CDC)
A female, Amblyomma triste from a dorsal view, as it was climbing a blade of grass. (Christopher Paddock/CDC)

If you want to know how bad a tick season we’re going to have for Lyme disease, count the mice. Mice carry Lyme. Ticks love mice. And the numbers this year are plague-level. It’s going to be a rough season for Lyme disease, which is spreading ever further into the country. And it’s not just Lyme that ticks are carrying these days. A new tick-borne virus – Powassan – can kill you. Leave you paralyzed. This hour On Point: bracing for a bad season of ticks and disease. -- Tom Ashbrook


Felicia Keesing, community ecologist who studies tick-borne diseases. Professor of science, mathematics and computing at Bard College.

Dr. John Aucott, director of the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center. Assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he is a Lyme disease expert.

Dr. Mark Klempner, executive vice chancellor of MassBiologics, where he is developing a drug therapy for the prevention of Lyme disease. Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

From Tom's Reading List

WIRED: Lyme Isn't the Only Disease Ticks Are Spreading This Summer -- "It started with vomiting and a fever. But a few days later, five-month-old Liam was in the emergency room, his tiny body gripped by hourly waves of seizures. X-rays and MRIs showed deep swelling in his brain. When an infectious disease specialist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center diagnosed Liam with Powassan virus in November, he became the first recorded case in state history. Doctors think Liam picked up the rare neurological disease from a tick his father brought back after a deer hunting trip."

CNN: Experts warn of increases in tick-borne Powassan virus — "Summer is nearly here, and it's bringing fears of a rare tick-borne disease called Powassan. This potentially life-threatening virus is carried and transmitted by three types of ticks, including the deer tick that transmits Lyme disease. Over the past decade, 75 cases have been reported in the northeastern states and the Great Lakes region, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though no one can say how many infections will occur this year, warmer winters have led to an increased tick population, so experts predict rising tick-borne infections of many types."

VPR: Lyme Disease Prevention Drug In Development At UMass Medical School — "A group of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School are hoping to make Lyme disease in humans a thing of the past. They are working on an antibody drug that would prevent people from contracting the tick-borne disease."

Staying Safe In Tick Season

Avoid Direct Contact With Ticks

  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.

Repel Ticks On Skin And Clothing

  • Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours.
  • Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes and mouth.
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.

Find And Remove Ticks From Your Body

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a handheld or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats and day packs.
  • Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.

How To Remove A Tick

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  • Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

The above information and recommendations are sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. See detailed information on symptoms of tick-borne disease here.

'Tick Check:' A Song To Help Your Kids Remember

An original song written and performed by listener Wood Newton.

Where Ticks Live

American Dog Tick

Transmits: Tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Blacklegged Tick (also known as Deer Tick)

Transmits: Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Powassan disease

Brown Dog Tick

Transmits: Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Gulf Coast Tick

Transmits: Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, a form of spotted fever

Lone Star Tick

Transmits: Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii (which cause human ehrlichiosis), tularemia, and STARI

Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

Transmits: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, and tularemia

Western Blacklegged Tick

Transmits: Anaplasmosis and Lyme disease

Maps and information sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This program aired on June 13, 2017.


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