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Tick ​​season: How to get rid of ticks and what you need to know about blood suckers

Tick ​​season: How to get rid of ticks and what you need to know about blood suckers

 


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Maybe you've found it crawling up your leg after walking through tall grass, or felt it on your dog's back when you run your hand through its fur. If you're unlucky, you might find that it's already dug into your skin and soaked with blood.

Ticks are parasitic blood-sucking bacteria that can spread deadly diseases and are becoming increasingly common. Here's what you need to know about them.

Ticks are arachnids, close relatives of ticks and distant relatives of spiders.There is More than 800 species of ticks are found around the world, 84 cases documented in the United States. However, only a handful in the United States bite and transmit disease to humans. The most common are the black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick, but preys on many animals other than deer), the lone star tick, the American dog tick, and the brown dog tick.

After a tick egg hatches, it goes through three life stages: larva, nymph, and adult. Both male and female ticks suck blood by inserting their barbed, straw-like mouthparts into the host's skin (unlike mosquitoes, they only bite when females are preparing to lay eggs). However, only female ticks drink water until they become engorged.

Kate Chapman, an extension educator and urban entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says, “If you see a female that is super large and has a swollen belly, that means she is laying eggs and starting her life cycle process all over again.'' It means,” he says.

These arachnids change dramatically in size and appearance depending on their age and the amount of blood they drink. “The nymph blacklegged mite, this unfed mite, when you put it on a poppy seed bagel, it blends in very well,” says Thomas, professor of public health entomology at the University of Rhode Island and director of the university's center.・Dr. Mather says: Vector-Borne Diseases and His TickEncounter Resource Center. On the other hand, when an adult female of the same species becomes full, it can swell to the size of a pea.

tick bites and illness

Although different species and life stages are more active in some months, tick bites can occur at any time of the year. If you find a tick attached to you (or your pet), you should carefully remove it.

“I recommend using tweezers to grab the tick's head as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out,” Chapman says. “You don't want to twist because that could leave some of the mouthparts embedded in the skin. You also don't want to grab the body; squeezing the body can cause the tick to spit out more. , which means an increased chance of contracting tick-borne diseases.”

Be careful when removing the tick from your skin. Use tweezers to pull the tick's head as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out.

Although it may be tempting to crush the tick you just removed, it's best to remove it with hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol and save it to show to a professional, or at least take a photo. This will help you determine what type of tick it is and how long it has been feeding on blood.University of Rhode Island The TickEncounter website has tools Determined based on color, size, and geographic location.

It is important to identify ticks because certain types of ticks carry different diseases. They can pick up bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms from the blood of an infected host and transfer those pathogens to their surroundings when they bite a new victim.

For example, black-legged tick larvae and nymphs often feed on white-footed mice. Can carry a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. If a tick sucks one of these infected mice and then sucks a human, the bacteria can be transmitted and cause Lyme disease.

On the other hand, the Lone Star tick does not feed on white-footed mice, so it is not a carrier of Lyme disease. (However, they carry other disease-causing microorganisms, and their bite can introduce sugar molecules into the bloodstream.) cause an allergy to red meat. )

in Survey for September 2023Researchers have learned how some ticks, including deer ticks and black-legged ticks, become infected with the harmful bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum before spreading to human hosts and causing anaplasmosis, which is different from Lyme. We have identified a protein that appears to play a very important role. disease.

Anaplasmosis can cause severe headache, fever, chills, vomiting, and fatigue. According to Cedars-Sinai News Agency.

Understanding this protein may allow scientists to better understand how to stop the spread of tick-borne diseases, the study says. But much research is still needed before we get there.

Tick-borne illnesses can be debilitating or life-threatening, and the longer the tick is inside your body, the greater the risk of infection. Although there are several treatments, it's best to avoid getting bitten in the first place.

Various studies have suggested factors that may play a role in attracting mites. Relationship between tick attraction and static electricity in a laboratory setting. Ticks are also attracted to cues such as carbon dioxide exhaled by animals, but they tend to wait around rather than actively searching for prey.

“Contrary to popular belief, they do not fall from trees. For example, they sit on the edge of a blade of tall grass hanging somewhere and put out their front legs. We explore that We call it that,” Chapman said. “The tick waits for the host to walk right past them, and this is primarily how people get infected with ticks. They walk past the tick. They get on their feet or on their clothes.”

Insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus are available. Environmental Protection Agency approval To protect from ticks. However, these chemicals act differently on ticks than they do on mosquitoes.

One way to avoid tick bites while hiking in the wild is to tuck the hem of your pants into your socks.

For example, DEET does not interfere with a tick's ability to find prey, much like DEET affects mosquitoes, but instead “burns the tick's legs, causing the legs to fall off because the legs burn,” Mather said. . Moreover, “as soon as it dries, it stops burning, so it doesn't last very long for the mites.''

Instead, Chapman recommends protecting your skin from tick bites by covering your skin and tucking your pants into your socks. Dust mites will die in 30 minutes in the dryer, so throw your clothes in the dryer as soon as you get home, even before you wash them.

Furthermore, “we support” Wearing permethrin-treated clothing — much more effective than bug spray,” Mather said. “It blocks the mite's nerve conduction, making it extremely excited, causing it to quickly become incapacitated and eventually killed.” It might make sense to investigate, he says.

These precautions may seem extreme, but for Mather, they're the way of the future. Because “we live in a world with 'more ticks in more places,' and more people are exposed to viruses.”

Climate change may play a role Although tick infestations are to blame, Mather said he believes the influx of parasites is related to white-tailed deer becoming more common in areas where humans live densely. . As a result, “more people are being exposed to ticks that breed on white-tailed deer,” he said.

Despite the infestation of ticks and the severity of the disease they cause, if you take proper precautions (for you and your pet – ask your veterinarian for tick preventatives), they can be kept in your home. Chapman stressed that ticks shouldn't hold you hostage.

“Yes, ticks exist. Yes, they can be a public health issue, but we don't want them to keep us indoors,” she said. “You should be able to go outside and enjoy nature, but you need to do another check. So, take some time and do it.”

Kate Golembiwski I'm a freelance science writer based in Chicago, specializing in zoology, thermodynamics, and death. She hosts the comedy talk show “A Scientist Walks Into a Bar.”

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