don’t let ‘ticks’ ruin your summer


ARKANSAS (KNWA / KFTA) – The Natural State has at least half a dozen tick-borne diseases.


Alpha-gal (AGS) is a sugar molecule found in most mammals and is not normally found in fish, reptiles, birds or humans, according to the CDC. However, there is some evidence that the alpha-gal molecule is found in the saliva of certain types of ticks. More research needs to be done, but there is some evidence that AGS can be triggered by the bite of a lone star or a blacklegged tick. AGS syndrome can occur after people have eaten red meat or been exposed to products containing AGS.

Symptoms of alpha-gal (AGS) include rash, hives, nausea or vomiting, difficulty breathing, drop in blood pressure, dizziness or fainting, severe abdominal pain. Symptoms appear 3-6 hours after eating meat or exposure to products that contain, for example, gelatin-coated drugs. (Source: CDC).

The American dog tick, named because it prefers to feed on dogs, is a carrier of bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever. It is also known as the wood tick and usually emerges in the spring and early summer. The brown dog tick, found in the southwestern United States and along the United States-Mexico border, is also a carrier of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. This disease is the most frequently reported tick-borne disease in Arkansas.

Child’s right hand and wrist with the spotty rash characteristic of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most serious and frequently reported rickettsial disease in the United States. The disease is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii, a species of bacteria that is transmitted to humans by ixodid (hard) ticks. Image courtesy of CDC. 1990.

Q&A with Dr Laura Rothfeldt, State Public Health Veterinarian

Three most popular ticks in their natural state? the lonely star tick is what you see most often in Arkansas, probably 90%. It covers the entire southeast and encroaches on New England and the Atlantic coast. The second most popular is the American dog tick and related is the Gulf Coast tick. Even though Arkansas is not along the Gulf, people can be confused by its name.

Do all states have ticks? Yes. All states have some type of tick – there is no state without ticks.

Are ticks seasonal and does humidity or drought play a role in increasing / decreasing ticks? They are seasonal in Arkansas. The solitary tick is usually from April to October and can vary. But, it is a summer tick problem. In the Northwest and upper Midwest, the deer tick is more fall-winter – a seasonal distribution. They love humidity and tend to dry out quickly in drought conditions. Ticks can tolerate heat. For example, in Arizona, the brown dog tick feeds primarily on dogs, so there are ticks that adapt to weather conditions. This tick will live in cracks in cement, various dwellings and piles of wood.

How does a person prevent ticks, other than the obvious, from not getting out? You will want to walk on a clear path or in the center of a trail. Avoid debris in wooded areas as this is where ticks can be found and grab you. Wear colorful clothes, wear long pants and tuck them into your socks, and use a EPA approved insecticide. After walking or going outside, check your body for ticks to make sure none have clung to you, take a shower, and wash your clothes.

Where do ticks live and what is their lifespan? In winter, they live in leaf litter and hibernate. In summer, ticks hang out in tall grass or a blade of grass, waiting for their host to pass by so they can cling to a person. Ticks can live up to three years, some live longer. They are born (hatch) from an egg to larva (in winter) then find a blood meal until they can feed again depending on the environment and availability.

The best way to remove a tick, and how are you sure that it is completely removed? There are many stories of women, but the recommended method is to use tweezers, or lift the tick (s) and grab them – pull up without twisting or twisting to avoid crushing the tick and get inside thing in you. You don’t want to offer this opportunity. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands using soap and water or alcohol. If you can see any skin attached to the tick, you know you have it all. If you don’t get everything, try grabbing it again with the tweezers, if not, use antibiotic ointment to get it. You will need to watch for certain symptoms, such as the area that turns red, and if the skin swells, see a doctor.

How does a person get Lyme disease? It is spread by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (or deer tick) that will need to feed for 24 to 36 hours, over a day, in order for it to feed this pathogen. While it is feeding it sucks the blood from the host and some of it goes back to you, this is how it is transmitted. If you remove this tick within the first 24 hours, you can avoid getting sick. Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and rash.

What is the Powassan virus? This virus is rare but has increased in recent years. In the United States, most cases have been found in the northeastern and Great Lakes regions from spring to mid-fall. There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent or treat Powassan. People are known to contract the virus 15 minutes after an infected tick attaches itself to you. This virus is not in Arkansas, but we are studying it. Some people have died several years after having it, the most notable being the former US Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina. She contracted Powassan in 2016 and died three years later, she was 66.

Are ticks useful for anything? I do not know the answer. It is a species of animals for which I have no answer… male mosquitoes are pollinators, but a male or female tick has no advantage (to my knowledge).

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