Watch Out For Ticks As You Head Back Outside in Sharon

SHARON, MA — With the end of stay-at-home orders, and outdoor social gatherings being advised over indoor ones in the early stages of the state’s reopening, Sharon residents are advised to keep an eye out for ticks during those cookouts, hikes and time spent doing yardwork.

The Sharon Board of Health said diseases are most likely spread between late May and early autumn when the ticks are most active. However, according to the MA Department of Public
Health (DPH), “ticks can also be out any time winter temperatures are above freezing.”

Coming off a a warmer-than-usual winter, ticks are already busy at work finding a host.

Ticks are most commonly found in grassy, brushy or wooded areas, but also in your own back yard. It is important to keep the grass cut short and to remove leaves and
brush around your home.

Keep woodpiles and bird feeders off the ground and create a three-foot wide woodchip, mulch, or gravel barrier where your lawn meets the woods. Check yourself for ticks once a day and use a repellent that contains DEET. Also, check your pets as dogs are susceptible to tick-borne illnesses.

Deer are not the only animals that are part of the tick’s two year life cycle. During the nymph stage (late May-July), the white-footed mouse plays host in shady cool areas such as leaf litter or downed branches.

Deer ticks can cause Lyme disease, Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis. Deer ticks are small and the nymph (young) is the size of a poppy seed and both will bite people for a blood meal.

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease that is transmitted to humans and animals by an infected deer tick bite. Cases of Lyme disease occur throughout Massachusetts. Symptoms can occur anywhere from three days to one month after a person is bitten and it is common to see a “bull’s eye” rash or to experience flu-like symptoms.

If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause arthritis, short-term memory loss and heart problems.

Babesiosis is caused by a parasite that affects red blood cells and cases occur on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. People can show no symptoms or very mild signs of illness, but when symptoms do occur they are gradual and begin one to six weeks after being bitten. These symptoms can include fever, chills, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain and dark urine.

Anaplasmosis is caused by a bacteria that affects the white blood cells and is found on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and in Berkshire County. Symptoms of fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, nausea and vomiting can occur and immediate treatment is indicated. With both
Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis, the elderly, diabetics and individuals with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop serious symptoms.

There have been fewer than 60 documented cases of a tick borne illness in the U.S. caused by the Borrelia Miyamotoi bacteria. According to the CDC, the “bacteria are closely related to tick borne relapsing fever and distantly related to the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.” The
symptoms are similar to Lyme disease but it is uncommon to see a “bull’s eye” rash as evidenced by only four out of 51 cases reporting any rash.

A tick borne viral illness found in the NE and Great Lakes Region named Powassan Virus has accounted for 75 cases in the U.S. over the past 10 years. The virus causes encephalitis or inflammation of the brain and treatment is supportive care.

Dog ticks can cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia. Dog ticks are about the size of a watermelon seed and are most active during spring and summer. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a bacterial disease that is rare in Massachusetts but can be found in the Southeast, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. Symptoms of high fever with severe headache and fatigue can occur from three-five days after being bitten. Three to five days after the onset of a fever, a rash spreads to the palms of the hand and soles of the feet.

Tularemia is a bacterial disease and the symptoms usually begin three to five days after exposure, but can take as long as three weeks to occur. Symptoms include a slow-healing sore and swollen glands. Tularemia is found on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

For tick information, please visit the Town Office vestibule, the Adult Center, Library, or Recreation Department. Information is also available on the MA Department Public Health website.

This article originally appeared on the Sharon Patch

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