Taking Tick Precautions When Spending Time Outdoors

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You might be finding yourself spending more time outdoors and being more active in nature. While fresh air is great - at a safe distance from others - with the warming weather there’s an important reminder about ticks.

While tick sightings are ramping up for the spring, because we had such an unseasonably mild winter, there was actually a lot of tick activity through the winter months. But now that the weather is starting to warm up, the tick activity is picking up.  

“We are seeing a great deal of tick activity. I expect this to be a very active tick year,” Kirby Stafford, the Connecticut state entomologist, said.

The Connecticut active tick surveillance program collects ticks at sites all across the state and then tests for multiple pathogens. And because the winter was so warm, a lot of the ticks survived.

“Last fall the infection rate was around 46%,” Stafford said.  “So the ticks that you’re seeing now are carry overs from the fall.”

Which means that if you are bitten by a tick, there’s a 50/50 chance that the tick is infected. So taking the necessary precautions, such as wearing long pants and tucking them into your socks and using repellent, is key. And after any outdoor activity, always do a tick check.

If you do find a tick, Stafford says, “You want to remove the tick and keep it and we are still testing ticks and identifying and testing ticks for the public, so the lab is still operational during this time.”

And you want to act fast because when it comes to tick bites, response timing is crucial.

“It takes 24 to 36 hours, more like 36 to 48 to begin the transmission of the Lyme pathogen from the tick to you. That’s why the tick checks are important,” Stafford said. “You get that tick off that first day, those first 24 slightly plus hours, even if the tick is infected you won’t be.”

And know that if you do start exhibiting symptoms, there is some crossover with signs of COVID-19 to be aware of.

“Seventy to 80 percent of people, give or take, will develop the characteristic Lyme rash at the site of the tick bite and if you have, unfortunately, aches and pains and in this time, it could be a number of things. You know you should contact your doctor. Early treatment is almost always successful at eliminating the infection.”

And of course you always want to make sure you’re taking care of your pets as well because they are susceptible, too.

You can contact your vet with different preventative options. And for more information on how to get a tick tested if you do find one on you or your pet, you can visit: https://portal.ct.gov/CAES/Tick-Office/Tick-Office/Tick-Testing-Laboratory

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