JEROME - Few insects cause more fear than wood ticks. In the spring throughout the Magic Valley Region, unsuspecting fishermen, hunters, hikers, horse riders, and dog walkers can soon become a host to the little critters.
Wood ticks are generally brown or speckled brown, very flat, and have an extremely hard protective coating. They are 2 mm to 3 mm in diameter and are generally located on brush, trees or grassy areas.
To reproduce, the female wood tick needs blood. To catch an unsuspecting victim, the tick will climb to the end of a branch and wait for a warm-blooded host to pass by.
Once onboard, ticks look for a place to feed. When a tick bites, it injects anesthetic and anticoagulant so the carrier doesn't feel it. They cut the tissue and stick their head under the skin to get to the blood.
According to the Center For Disease Control, the transmission of B. burgdonferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) from an infected tick is unlikely to occur before 36 hours of tick attachment. For this reason, daily checks for ticks and promptly removing any attached tick that you find will help prevent infection.
Embedded ticks should be removed using fine-tipped tweezers. Do not use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products. Grasp the tick firmly and as closely to the skin as possible with the tweezers. With a steady motion, pull the tick's body away from the skin.
The tick's mouthparts may remain in the skin, but do not be alarmed. The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are contained in the tick's midgut or salivary glands.
Once the tick is removed, wash the area with soapy water and disinfect with antiseptic. If flu-like symptoms gradually appear, see a doctor.
Few ticks carry disease. Idaho averages less than three to four Lyme's disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever cases each year.
Tick bites undetected can result in death. Ticks have been known to kill large animals by attaching themselves to the base of the skull. While they feed they continue to administer anesthetic. This can eventually paralyze the victim and kill it.
To prevent bites, use repellents with DEET or citronella oil in them and tightly woven clothing.
Check for ticks after being out in the woods. The most common sites are hairy places, such as the underarms, pubic region and the scalp.
Pets should also be regularly checked for ticks. Ticks are most prevalent in the spring, but outdoorsmen should make a habit of checking for them throughout the summer and fall.
To help protect pets, update their flea and tick collars regularly to insure good protection. But regular body checks after each trip into the field is still important.
For more information, go to http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/insects/special_topics.htm