Hello Farmers and Families!
It’s the time of year when we are all excited to be outdoors. The animals are outside on pasture, the flowers are blooming, the crops field has been planted, and the hay field has just had its first mowing.
This time of year also means that ticks are starting to become more prevalent. While our barn cats are all working overtime as tick defenders (they keep the mice away, which are the vector, or carrier, of tick-borne illness) it is important to know the facts about ticks and be prepared so that we can all enjoy our time outdoors on the farm together!
What are ticks?
Ticks are small eight-legged arachnids that feed on the blood of other animals, including humans. To feed, a tick will insert its head under the skin to reach the host’s blood, leaving the body and legs exposed. There are three species of ticks that are found in Bedford: the Black-legged tick or Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), the Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum), and the American Dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis).
In Bedford the Deer Tick is most prevalent, and a known carrier of tick-borne illnesses.
What are tick-borne illnesses?
Tick-borne illnesses are diseases carried by ticks that can be transmitted to the host when a tick bites. In Bedford, the most prevalent tick-borne illness is Lyme disease. The following tick-borne illnesses are carried by the Deer tick:
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi which can cause symptoms including flu-like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, facial palsy, inflammation, and problems with short term memory. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. Prompt treatment during the early stage of Lyme disease prevents more serious symptoms later.
Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (HGA) is caused by bacteria that target white blood cells. Symptoms may include fever, headache, chills, muscle ache, and fatigue. Less commonly, people may have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough and joint aches. HGA can be treated with antibiotics. Prompt treatment during the early stages prevents more serious symptoms later.
Babesiosis is caused by a microscopic parasite that targets red blood cells. Most prevalent on the south shore, Cape Cod, and the islands. Symptoms are flu-like but may also include vomiting, abdominal pain and dark urine. Prompt treatment during the early stages is critical to prevent more serious symptoms later.
To prevent tick bites
Your best defense against tick-borne illness is preventing a tick bite in the first place! Follow this checklist to be best prepared to prevent tick bites.
While it is important to frequently check clothing and exposed skin for ticks while outdoors, it is especially important to conduct a thorough tick check on yourself and your children at the end of each day.
Be sure to check:
How to remove
If you do find a tick embedded in your skin, it is important to remove as soon as possible. Use a tick-removal tool to pull out the entire tick from the skin. It is important not to squeeze the tick during the removal, as this may cause the tick to regurgitate its stomach contents and any tick-borne diseases it may be carrying into the bloodstream. Ticks embedded for less than 24 hours are unlikely to have passed on a tick-borne illness. This is why it is important to conduct thorough tick checks each day!
Once removed, place the tick in a sealable bag or container with some rubbing alcohol. Try to identify the tick yourself, or send a picture to us for help with identification. There are also options to send the tick in for testing if it is a deer tick and you believe it has been embedded for over 24 hours. Call your doctor with any concerns.
Monitoring the bite
If you were bitten by a Deer tick and you believe it was embedded for over 24 hours, keep an eye on the area around the bite for any signs of a rash over the next few days. Some local irritation is normal but keep an eye out for growing redness or the distinctive (but not always present) Erythema migrans bullseye rash:
Visit https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms/rashes.html for additional images
Call your doctor if you or your child begin to exhibit any of the following symptoms after a tick bite:
It is important to remember that tick-borne illnesses are best prevented through proper preparation and thorough tick checks, and that the threat of tick-borne illnesses doesn't have to get in the way of our enjoyment of the farm and the outdoors!