Pests Part 1


Ticks are nasty critters.  They suck blood and spread disease.  I've never been freaked out about them, but living surrounded by woods, I've had plenty of them.  This morning I woke up about 4:50 with one digging into my shoulder.  That made me think about how ticks can cause trouble in a breakdown situation.

Around here, the main ticks are the deer tick, which spreads Lyme disease, and the dog tick, which spreads Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

From Wikipedia
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. Borrelia is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks belonging to a few species of the genus Ixodes ("hard ticks"). Early symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, depression, and a characteristic circular skin rash called erythema migrans. Left untreated, later symptoms may involve the joints, heart, and central nervous system. In most cases, the infection and its symptoms are eliminated by antibiotics, especially if the illness is treated early. Delayed or inadequate treatment can lead to the more serious symptoms, which can be disabling and difficult to treat.

Bullseye Rash Pattern
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most lethal and most frequently reported rickettsial illness in the United States. It has been diagnosed throughout the Americas. Some synonyms for Rocky Mountain spotted fever in other countries include “tick typhus,” “Tobia fever” (Colombia), “São Paulo fever” or “febre maculosa” (Brazil), and “fiebre manchada” (Mexico). It is distinct from the viral tick-borne infection, Colorado tick fever. The disease is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii, a species of bacterium that is spread to humans by Dermacentor ticks. Initial signs and symptoms of the disease include sudden onset of fever, headache, and muscle pain, followed by development of rash. The disease can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages, and without prompt and appropriate treatment it can be fatal.

The name “Rocky Mountain spotted fever” is somewhat of a misnomer. Beginning in the 1930s, it became clear that this disease occurred in many areas of the United States other than the Rocky Mountain region. It is now recognized that this disease is broadly distributed throughout the continental United States, and occurs as far north as Canada and as far south as Central America and parts of South America. Between 1981 and 1996, this disease was reported from every U.S. state except Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and Alaska.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever remains a serious and potentially life-threatening infectious disease today. Despite the availability of effective treatment and advances in medical care, approximately 3% to 5% of individuals who become ill with Rocky Mountain spotted fever still die from the infection. However, effective antibiotic therapy has dramatically reduced the number of deaths caused by Rocky Mountain spotted fever; before the discovery of tetracycline and chloramphenicol in the late 1940s, as many as 30% of persons infected with R. rickettsii died.

Rash caused by Rocky Mountain spotted fever
 So, what can we do about these nasty things?  First is prevent them.  Check your dog for ticks whenever he comes inside.  Keep him treated with flea and tick killer.  Keep your grass cut and remove overhanging branches around your backyard living areas.  Guinea hens are voracious eaters of ticks and just two of them can keep up to an acre clear of ticks.  Wear a hat, long sleeves, and tuck your pants in your boots if tromping about the woods.  Light colored clothes make it easier to see them if they jump on you.  Check yourself out when you come inside, and have your spouse check those areas you can't.

If you find a tick making you his dinner, you need to get him off of you as soon as possible.  The longer he stays attached, the more likely it is that he can spread a disease.  There are all kinds of folk remedies and such about how to get rid of one...  stick a hot needle in him, smother him with petroleum jelly, use duct tape, I'm sure everyone knows a couple more.  But really, the best way is to use your fingernails or tweezers to get him near the jaws and pulled away without squeezing the body.  You need to be sure part of the head doesn't stay embedded.  After that, burn or flush him.

Clean the area with alcohol, and apply antibiotic ointment and a bandaid if needed.  Keep a close eye on the bite for several weeks, and at the first sign of infection or any symptom associated with a tick borne disease, seek medical attention.

Tomorrow I've got some thoughts on a few other pests that can have a direct effect on our preps.

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