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Ticks can be more than just a nuisance.

Most people consider ticks to be simply an outdoor pest which attaches itself unmercifully to their pets or themselves. But a certain percentage of ticks pose serious threats of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Two common types of ticks found in Kentucky are the American dog tick and the lone star tick. Mike Potter, Extension entomologist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, discussed them:

"Neither appears to be the carrier of Lyme disease, and the tick that does carry it, Ixodes dammini, is found mainly in the Northeast. However, the American dog tick and the lone star tick are proven carriers of Rocky Mountain spotted fever."

Potter said there were 44 cases of Lyme disease reported in Kentucky in 1991, but many of the victims either had visited or lived in other states where Lyme disease occurs prior to diagnosis. So even though the disease has been reported in Kentucky, the source of infection remains unknown.

That's why people should know the early symptoms, Potter said. They should see a physician if they are sick and suspect a tick bit has caused the illness. They should know, also, that the tick normally must have been attached for at least 24 hours for infection to occur.

Lyme disease include a flu-like condition (fatigue, headache, fever, aches and pains etc.) and often a slowly expanding circular or oval-shaped red rash, Potter said. It can be treated if caught early, but later it becomes more difficult.

"The tick which transmits Lyme disease is very small -- about the size of the head of a pin," he said. "Immature stages of the lone star tick resemble Ioxdes ticks (those which transmit Lyme disease) and are easily mistaken for each other."

The lone star tick does have a history of carrying Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but the primary carrier of this disease is the American dog tick. There are usually 10-30 cases reported annually and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, if left untreated, can be fatal, Potter said.

"Symptoms occur two to 12 days after the tick bites and are flu-like, accompanied by headaches and a very high fever, 104-106 degrees Fahrenheit," he said. "On the second or fifth day, a rash appears on wrists and ankles and will spread to other parts of the body. Here again, the tick must have been attached for at least one day before infection can occur."

The disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics, Potter said, but it's best to prevent it.

The entomologist suggested ways people can protect themselves and their pets from tick bites:

* Avoid walking in unmowed fields and brushing against vegetation. Wear long pants tucked into socks and use a tick repellent.

* Check family and pets after being in tick-infested areas and remove any found by grasping them with fine-point tweezers just behind where they are attached and pulling them out, slowly and steadily.

* Keep yard and shrubbery trimmed and remove excess vegetation. Dragging a piece of white flannel sheeting through suspected areas will indicate if ticks are present. An insecticide may be used in these areas and places where I pets, rodents, and other wild hosts of ticks frequent (i.e. doghouses, fencelines, edges where woods meet lawns). One or two applications will suffice, the first in May and a second, if needed, in early July.

* Pets may be dipped or sprayed with tick repellant, but these lose effectiveness after a week or so and must be repeated.

Lyme is over-diagnosed

A doctor at the Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic has called Lyme disease the "most over-diagnosed" disease of the times. The disease itself can be difficult to diagnose, the symptoms can be due to other causes... and many people are terrified of ticks, leading to a kind of "Lyme disease paranoia."
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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