Tag Archives: tick prevention

tick prevention tips_outside party

How to Keep Ticks Out of Your Party and Off Your Guests

You’ve gone through your party checklist from guests to food, but did you add tick prevention to your list? Follow these simple tips to keep ticks out of your party and off your guests.

 

We all know that mosquitoes, flies and ants are notorious outdoor party crashers. But there are other, far more stealthy uninvited guests, too: ticks. While they may not ruin an outdoor wedding, cocktail party, picnic or backyard barbecue, they can leave both you and your guests with serious long-term health consequences.

Otherwise harmless behavior—like sitting at a table on the grass in the shade of your own backyard, or elsewhere in a park or vineyard, or while walking to and from a parking lot to the beach through grass—can expose you to disease-carrying ticks and be your undoing.

Unfortunately, after a warm, wet winter across much of the U.S. and all the rain that fell this spring, there are more ticks than ever. However, there are ways to keep ticks from ruining the party, not to mention potentially harming your health. “The most important thing is to avoid getting bitten in the first place,” said Sara Tyghter, Global Lyme Alliance’s (GLA) Director of Education and Outreach. Here, GLA and several wedding and event planners share their tips for staying tick-safe at outdoor gatherings.

Apply Repellent

“Ticks should definitely be on everyone’s radar,” said John Perry, co-owner of Catering by… a Small Affair, a boutique wedding and event planning firm based in the Hamptons. ”Yet in my 20 years of catering, I’ve found that guests think more about comfort and avoiding mosquitoes than about [tick] safety. That will change in time.”

One of the most important ways to protect yourself and your guests from ticks and the diseases they carry is by applying an effective repellent to exposed skin. Two well-known ingredients to look for in a tick repellent are picaridin and DEET. In addition, there are numerous essential oils—citronella, lemon leaves, lavender, lemon eucalyptus and several others—but they only provide a brief period of repellency against ticks.

tick repellent_image onlyDEET has long been considered the gold standard for all repellents. Yet DEET has some drawbacks. It emits a distinctive—and for many, unpleasant—odor and can feel oily on skin. Moreover, it can dissolve certain plastics (think eyeglasses, phones, etc.), and leather and synthetic fabrics such as rayon and spandex. Repellents containing 20% picaridin, long used and trusted in Europe, are less toxic. Studies have shown picaridin is as effective as DEET against ticks and mosquitoes. But unlike DEET, picaridin is nearly odorless (some have a mild citrus scent when first applied), non-greasy, and won’t damage clothing or gear. For more on pros and cons on a variety of tick repellents, check out GLA’s Tick Repellent Roundup.

Some event planners say they bring repellents in different forms to gatherings. Lynn Easton, founder of a special-events firm in Charlottesville and Charleston, South Carolina, says she puts several types of repellent wipes in the guest bathrooms,  while others such as party planner Bill Homan, co-founder of Design Cuisine in Arlington, Virginia says he often offers trays of bracelets made with oils including geraniol, lemon grass and citronella as a natural tick repellent. Chris L. Fuentes, founder and CEO of Ranger Ready Repellents, based in South Norwalk, Connecticut, says often party-planners create spray stations, in which baskets of Ranger Ready products are placed outdoors, away from food, where party goers can easily apply repellent to prevent insect bites and focus on enjoying themselves.

Spray Your Clothes

Most of us are familiar with the admonitions to wear long-pants (tucked into socks), long-sleeved shirts, and a hat. But let’s face it, that kind of get-up in the hot, skin-baring days of summer—especially at an outdoor event—may be difficult if not out of the question. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wear clothes treated with permethrin, an insecticide produced by the chrysanthemum flower that repels and kills ticks on contact. Or treat your own clothes with a permethrin spray which you can buy online through Amazon and at various retailers and sports stores.

You can also send items directly to Insect Shield and they will treat the clothes—including cocktail attire and wedding dresses—for you. “People send anything and everything to be treated,” said Janine Robertson, an Insect Shield spokesperson. “More people are learning about the need for tick-repellent clothing,” she added, whether it’s in your own backyard, at an outdoor concert, or an outdoor cocktail party.”

Don’t Forget Your Shoes

One way to stop tiny ticks (often as small as a poppy seed) is by wearing shoes that have been sprayed with permethrin. Ticks usually await you in leaf litter or on blades of grass. From there, they latch onto a shoe and start crawling up your body. As a good first line of defense, consider spraying your shoes a day or so before your event. “I went to a pool party wearing open-toed shoes and I made sure to spray my feet and legs with repellent and my shoes with permethrin because I knew there would be a grassy area,” said Westchester, New York’s Staci Grodin, a GLA Board member. “If I know a friend is going to an outdoor party, I always encourage them to spray their shoes.”

ticks_lavenderThe Flower  that Ticks and Mosquitoes Despise

Who doesn’t love fresh flowers? If you are considering a flower centerpiece for an outdoor party, ask your florist to incorporate some soft lavender flowers since ticks and mosquitoes will avoid the flowery scent. Similarly, a bride’s bouquet for an outdoor wedding might include a few sprigs of lavender.

Get The Help of an Exterminator

Most outdoor venues will have trained and licensed technicians come on a regular basis to spray for bugs. But check the time between the last spraying and your particular event. The most effective thing is to have an exterminator on site a few days before your get-together to spray all the usable space. At Jill Gordon Celebrate, a Hamptons firm, for instance, they spray two to three days before a wedding date or other event.

Do a Tick Check

After returning home, do a meticulous tick check of your entire body. Also check your children and pets. Ticks will attach just about anywhere. Pay particular attention to the groin area, naval, armpits, and behind the ears and knees. A tick that’s attached to you may feel like an unfamiliar mole or bump. “Raising awareness is important. We always tell people to be careful and double-check themselves,” says Marcy Blum, a New York event and wedding planner. “No one wants a tick on their body.”

If you do find a tick attached to you, try not to panic. Stay calm and remove it with pointy tweezers or tick removal tool as soon as you can. By removing the tick as quickly as possible, you reduce the chance of infection. Click here to see proper tick removal technique.

For simple tips to help prevent Lyme and other tick-borne diseases–from avoiding tick habitats to using tick repellent, to checking yourself for ticks–visit BeTickAWARE.org “By practicing good tick-bite prevention habits,” says Tyghter, “you’ll make yourselves and your guests safer from the tick threat.”

men lyme disease

Men, Ticks, and Lyme Disease

Why do more men get diagnosed with Lyme disease than women? Is it chance? Is it job related (think about outdoor workers such as landscapers)? Or do they view the initial risk of a tick bite indifferently? Are they more susceptible and more often infected because their guard is down? While this blog doesn’t answer all these questions, it does provide some thoughtful insight into how some well-known outdoorsmen view ticks and Lyme disease.

 

As a child growing up in Kentucky, Michael Rudy loved to explore nature and the great outdoors. As an adult, he became an avid hiker, camper and hunter. He ventured deep into the woods of Daniel Boone National Forest in Eastern Kentucky and other area parks, sometimes hiking three or four times a week. He camped in the wilderness 30 or more nights a year, whether for archery elk hunting with his dad, backcountry adventures, or fishing. With an adventurous spirit, he climbed the rugged but beautiful Red River Gorge and every spring he avidly hunted turkeys in Georgia, Tennessee or further north, accompanied by his trusty dog Hank.

Did he ever think about protecting himself from ticks when he was out hunting? Did the thought ever occur to him while walking off trail and “bushwhacking” his way through fields and brush where ticks thrive?

Michael Rudy with his dog, Hank
Michael Rudy with his dog, Hank

“Lyme wasn’t on my radar until I saw I had a rash,” he says. Although he had been bitten several times, one tick “got” him, he says, in 2015. It took two-and-a-half years for him to be diagnosed with Lyme after a string of “negative” tests and disbelief from more than three dozen doctors. By then, his body was so severely compromised that today he is rarely able to enjoy the outdoors he loves.

Rudy’s simultaneous love of nature and lack of understanding of his Lyme risk is sadly too common today among many physically active, outdoorsmen. After interviewing men across the country, Global Lyme Alliance (GLA) learned that many still don’t believe that the bite of a tiny tick can lead to long-term health consequences. Thinking themselves invulnerable to tick-borne diseases, some even believe that if they do develop Lyme symptoms, a simple course of antibiotics will cure them, much like a shot of penicillin can eliminate a bacterial infection. Unfortunately, this is not the case for too many. In fact, new research shows that by 2020, more than two million people could be suffering from post-treatment Lyme disease. As Minnesota’s Babe Winkelman, an American sportsman known for his television programs on hunting and fishing, says: “The bulk of the [male] population is not paying attention to the Lyme threat.”

Winkelman, who has been treated effectively for Lyme three times, said he recently gave several seminars in the Quad Cities, located on the Iowa-Illinois state line. Two hundred people jammed the room for his talk about Walleye fishing, a popular sport for anglers, and another 100 were disappointed when they couldn’t get into the room. Yet when it came to Winkelman’s talk about ticks, not even 100 showed up—even though it had been heavily promoted locally. “It was pathetic,” he says. “I couldn’t believe it. They should have been crammed in there learning how to make themselves bulletproof from ticks.”

babe winkelman
Babe Winkelman

In interview after interview, the men GLA spoke to said they had friends who hadn’t taken the threat of Lyme seriously until they got sick. Winkelman shared a story about Darwin, a local golf course maintenance man, who had come to buy a couple of fishing rods from him. “I asked him if he was doing anything to protect himself from ticks,” Winkelman recalls, “and he said he wasn’t. I told him that for $10 worth of permethrin and 15 to 20 minutes spraying his clothing would mean he could [completely] protect himself. But he didn’t listen and a year later, after being misdiagnosed, he told me he was suffering from chronic Lyme. He lost his job, he’s disabled…it’s very sad.”

“People don’t understand the risk,” says Washington D.C.’s Alan Dixon (pictured at top of article), who operates adventurealan.com, a website for outdoor enthusiasts, and who also leads guided adventure trips, often in areas with wooded and brushy trails. Dixon says he is constantly surprised by just how many of his clients—whom he describes as “pretty experienced outdoors people”—don’t own clothing treated with permethrin which repels and kills ticks, or even know that permethrin exists. “I have to seriously caution them,” he says, “and strongly suggest they get permethrin-treated clothing if they go on one of our trips.”

Dixon, who was diagnosed and treated for Lyme almost nine years ago, says wearing permethrin treated clothing and using picaridin on exposed skin is now a high priority for him. He believes that individuals often are reluctant to use “chemical” repellents because of perceived health risks. “They drive around at 80 miles per hour on the beltway without their seat belts, and they hesitate to eat something that has far less than one-in-a-million possibility of giving them cancer, yet they don’t want to put on a repellent because it might have some chemical in it. That’s not rational,” he says. “The big risk is getting Lyme, not the repellent.”

Interestingly, some men admitted that they didn’t take personal protection measures even though they knew that ticks carry any number of harmful and potentially life-threatening diseases. That seemed in keeping with the old-school way men don’t look after their health. Many of us know men who will not under any circumstances go to see a doctor. But what’s being recommended to deter ticks is far simpler than that. It merely asks outdoorsmen to use the same common sense safety precautions when facing the threat of Lyme disease as they would when preparing their gear for a hunting or camping trip. Tick-bite prevention is also an important lesson to teach their children, as their sons and daughters join them in experiencing the outdoors.

“I wasn’t using precautions even though I knew about Lyme because I read outdoor journals and medical journals,” says Bob Fallert of Syracuse, New York, who enjoys spending hours in the woods hunting turkeys. “I guess I didn’t think it was that widespread.”

Fallert, who used to sell pharmaceuticals, said he sometimes visited physicians’ offices in his area and asked them about Lyme. “They told me ‘We don’t have Lyme here,’” he says. (In fact, recent studies have shown that two-thirds of ticks in Syracuse’s Onondaga County carry Lyme.) Yet about six years ago, Fallert saw a bulls-eye rash on his chest and realized he might have Lyme. He was prescribed antibiotics, even though his doctor wasn’t sure what was causing the rash, and his Lyme test—which are notoriously imprecise—was negative. “That wised me up,” he says.

We all know about the minimal tick-deterrence system: insect repellent on skin (picaridin or DEET), permethrin on clothing and shoes, tuck your pants inside your socks, wear light-colored pants, do spot checks while outdoors, and do a thorough tick check when back indoors. Nevertheless, Robert Bryan, who hunts, hikes and works in the woods as a forester in southern Maine where tick numbers are high, says that he often sees hikers wearing shorts and walking off trails, where ticks wait patiently on grass, brush, or tree trunks for a potential host. Even one of Bryan’s brothers who spends a lot of time in the outdoors landed in an intensive care unit with Lyme and a co-infection of Babesiosis because he had not sprayed his clothes, Bryan says.

lyme disease cases_men_women_cdcWhat more will it take to make people aware of the consequences of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases? At present, the ones who seem to care most are those who are already sick, or who have friends who are sick. We spoke with one man who lives in Wisconsin where he hikes and plays golf. “There are plenty of ticks here, for sure,” he says. So what about tick protection? “I would never tuck long pants into socks,” he says, adding that when he plays golf he always wear shorts because it just makes it easier for him to swing, and if he’s hiking in hot weather, he would also probably wear shorts. “I guess I fit the cliché of men who don’t pay attention to ticks,” he joked.

“Every place in the United States is crawling with ticks,” says Babe Winkelman. “Whether you’re a hiker, angler, camper, hunter, gardener, or almost anyone who ventures outside—whether you live in cities or not—we all need to get educated, become more aware, and make ourselves bullet-proof from ticks by means of simple preventative measures.”

As for Rudy, he now serves as a GLA Lyme Education Ambassador. He urges everyone he knows not to minimize the risks of Lyme. “It’s real,” he says. “It’s debilitating. And it can get really bad.”  #BeTickAWARE


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Written by Rona Cherry for Global Lyme Alliance

Lyme Disease Prevention Needs Co-Operation, Not Isolation

by Hannah Staab and Mayla Hsu, Ph.D., GLA Science Officer

With the election of a new President in the United States, the heated rhetoric about reinforcing America’s southern border has ignored the critical need for international dialogue and mutual cooperation to control the spread of infectious diseases. Infectious pathogens do not respect national borders. As we have learned from Zika virus, both humans and animals can facilitate disease spread between countries, making the border areas between countries an important place for disease control. The U.S.-Mexico border zone can be considered a hotspot for diseases acquired from animals, such as Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, whose spread may be promoted by factors including climate change, poverty, and migration.

A study conducted jointly by Mexican and American scientists found that Ixodes scapularis, the tick responsible for spreading Lyme disease, is present in the border area, and 45% of these ticks were infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme. In Mexico, a survey of blood samples revealed that 6.4% of people living near the Texas border had antibodies for Lyme bacteria, while other regions in Mexico reported only 1.1% seropositivity. This region has a higher rate of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses than anywhere else in Mexico, and reasons for this could include the high traffic of host animals, such as cattle and white-tailed deer that move through the area. Tick-borne diseases may also become more prevalent in this area due to climate change. Variables including rainfall, invasive vegetation and increasing temperature are shifting the habitat range of disease vectors like ticks as well as their mammalian hosts, and it’s speculated that Lyme disease incidence will increase in this border area. Poverty, which worsens difficulties in obtaining timely health care information and treatment, is not solely a Mexican problem: 15.9% of Texans live below the poverty level.

However, preventing the spread of disease to humans is not the only focus of tick control in this region. Rhipicephalus microplus is a species of tick usually found in sub-tropical regions, that often transmits Babesia bovis, a parasite that causes cattle fever. This infection causes potentially fatal anemia and wasting in cattle, and leads to devastating economic losses. The parasite is related to a similar tick-borne parasite, Babesia microti, that infects and sickens humans.

In the early 1900’s, the United States established the National Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program, which eliminated virtually all cattle fever ticks. Still, these ticks remain abundant in Mexico, and to prevent their movement over the border, the United States Department of Agriculture created a Tick Eradication Quarantine Area (TEQA). Within the TEQA, stray, illegal and US-bound animals are inspected. In order to export cattle out of the quarantine area, they must be treated with acaricides, which are chemicals that kill ticks. Although this method has been very effective in keeping cattle fever out of Texas, the excessive use of acaricide has caused the ticks to adapt and become resistant.

A study by Busch et al. (2014) took tick samples from various locations in Texas and tested their resistance to multiple acaricides. These tests revealed that 15 out of 47 of the collections contained ticks that were resistant to acaricides. Eleven of 15 acaricide-resistant populations were collected outside of the TEQA, indicating the ticks were not contained. The authors concluded that despite the extensive actions to inhibit the spread of ticks into Texas, there were two dispersal mechanisms that led to these tick infestations. The first was frequent short-distance dispersal of acaricide-resistant ticks despite the precautions taken at the border. The second mechanism was the less frequent, long-distance dispersal from the TEQA, possibly mediated by humans, or carried on other host animals such as white-tailed deer.

Acaricide resistance is a major threat to the mechanisms that are currently in place to control tick populations. A study by Stone et al. (2014) examined the genetic mutations in ticks that are associated with acaricide resistance. They identified three single nucleotide polymorphisms that led to resistance in the sample population. Many communities on the Texas-Mexico border are concerned that their cattle will become infected with cattle fever, and without acaricides there are few weapons to battle the ticks. Studies like this will provide the knowledge necessary to enhance our tick control programs and prepare for future problems.

Protection of human and agricultural animal health will need research and testing on both sides of the border, as well as information sharing and collaborative implementation of vector control. In order to achieve this goal, it is necessary for the U.S. and Mexico to work together to stop the spread of tick-borne diseases.

What Failure to Control Ticks in Uganda Teaches Everyone

by Hannah Staab

Tick populations across Africa have negatively impacted many communities by carrying and spreading one of the most frequent bacterial diseases in Africa, tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF).

 

In addition to infecting humans, ticks in Africa are known to spread disease amongst cattle, resulting in both agricultural and economic consequences. Uganda is one of the countries hardest hit by the presence of ticks and tick-borne diseases (TBD), with over 30% of the calf crop lost to TBDs  such as theileriosis, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis.  Farmers have used acaricides, pesticides that target ticks and mites, as a tool to combat the diseases they carry. But recently many farmers have been reporting more instances of acaricide failure.  Acaricide failure places a tremendous financial burden on the Ugandan farmers; not only does it lead to a high loss of their cattle to TBD, but the costs of the acaricides themselves account for about 90% of an average farmer’s total disease control budget, making non-functional acaricides a major budgetary loss for farmers. The frequent occurrence of acaricide failure has raised the possibility that certain ticks are becoming resistant to them.

A study conducted by Vudriko et al. in 2016 set out to uncover the reason behind the increasing reports of acaricide failure in Uganda.  Of the 54 farms tested, 94.4% of them had complaints of acaricide failure, which prompted questions about tick resistance as well as acaricide application methods. To address these questions, Vudriko et al. examined the acaricide application techniques used by farmers and also tested the tick larvae they found on the cattle for acaricide resistance. The results showed that 93.5% of the larvae population they tested was resistant to at least one acaricide. The resistant larvae were identified as Rhipicephalus genus ticks. This was the first study in Uganda to report the emergence of multi-acaricide resistant ticks. Ticks’ resistance to multiple acaricides increases the danger of cattle being infected with TBD, because these ticks can survive even a combination of tick-attacking techniques.

Vudriko et al. also found that many farmers were guilty of misusing their acaricides.  When certain acaricides started to fail, farmers often try to find a quick fix by mixing chemicals, and creating their own acaricide application methods. These farmer-created errors could be partially to blame for the dramatic rise in multi-acaricide resistance. When a mixture of acaricides is applied surviving ticks carry a gene that allow them to resist all of the acaricides in that mixture. After they reproduce, future generations of ticks, harboring the resistance genes, will be resistant to multiple acaricides.

ticks-can-survive

Tick-borne diseases are the number one constraint of cattle production in Uganda. Acaricide failure has been spreading through farms, causing more and more cattle to fall ill with disease, and costing farmers time and money. The development of multi-acaricide resistant ticks could have possibly been delayed or even avoided if farmers had not taken tick control into their own hands. Therefore it is important to educate farmers around the world on how to properly manage and control ticks. Since a large portion of the ticks are now resistant to current acaricides, alternative tick control options are needed.

Witnessing how tick-borne diseases have affected Ugandan cattle farming demonstrates the impact ticks can have on society. In addition to spreading tick-borne diseases to humans across the world, ticks that prey on cattle have implications not only for the food supply but for economic growth in many countries.

The case of acaricide failure on farms in Uganda is a reminder of the importance of tick prevention, and following strict protocols when controlling tick populations. As climate change continues to make an increasing amount of habitats suitable for tick growth and reproduction globally more farms will start running into the problem of tick-borne disease among their cattle. Further research on this topic is necessary to help farmers and those of us who rely on their food around the world.


 

For more on Lyme disease and climate change, click here.