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‘It’s tick season all year round’: Precaution recommended for Sonoma County residents against Lyme disease carrying bugs

People most commonly come into contact with ticks while hiking or participating in outdoor activity.|

About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease, the most common in America, that is transmitted by an infected black-legged (deer) tick.

Symptoms include fever, skin rash, headache and fatigue. Some classic characteristics of the skin rash are a lighter, or dusky center, that may also resemble a target with multiple circles. The center can also appear bluish or as if it is clearing. Bright red oval shapes are also common as is a crusty lesion in the center of a red rash. See photos or rashes and look-alike rashes on the CDC’s website.

Typically if caught in its early stages, people will recover quickly through antibiotic treatment.

Prevent tick bites

Before entering tick habitat, apply a tick repellent to exposed skin with a suggested EPA-registered active ingredient (DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD).

Treat clothes and equipment with an acaricide that contains permethrin.

Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks.

Wear long pants and long sleeves.

Stay on trails to avoid brushing by grasses where questing ticks wait.

Avoid contact with leaf litter and logs where nymph ticks wait.

Shower after coming inside and check for ticks and bites.

Tumble dry clothes for 10 minute on high heat to kill ticks.

If a tick is on you or a pet, remove it immediately to reduce contracting a tick-borne disease. Using tweezers, remove it at the head using steady pressure in an upward motion. Do not twist or jerk the tick to avoid breaking off the mouth and leaving any tick part in the skin.

Thoroughly clean the bite area and hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Consult a physician if pain or redness develops in the bite area.

Former Bay Area news anchor Leslie Griffith died Aug. 10, according to a report by KTVU Channel 2 News. Family members say Griffith had been suffering from Lyme Disease since she was bitten by a tick while living in Oregon in 2015.

In California, the western black-legged ticks — the species that carries the bacterium that causes Lyme disease — have been found in 56 of the state’s 58 counties, including Sonoma County, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Yet officials at the Marin-Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District say residents can employ several precautions to avoid ticks outdoors and around their homes.

“In Sonoma County, ticks are actually active year-round,” said Nizza Sequeira, public information officer for Marin-Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District.

“You want to make sure you're taking precautions,” Sequeira said. She recommends dressing in light colors and long pants and sleeves, staying in the middle of hiking trails and applying repellents.

Western black-legged ticks, also known as the deer tick, are most active October through July, with adult activity peaking in the winter and nymphs (immature ticks) peaking in the spring.

People most commonly come into contact with ticks while hiking or participating in outdoor activity. Adult ticks perch on the top of long grass and wait for a passing host in a process officials call “questing.” Nymphs, which are the size of a poppy seed, are commonly found in leaf piles or on mossy logs. Despite rumors, ticks do not fly or fall from trees.

“You actually have to brush up against them,” Sequeira said.

In addition to checking yourself for ticks while outdoors, Sequeira recommends showering and putting your clothes in the dryer when you get home to kill any potential ticks in your clothing.

If you do find a tick that is attached to you, Sequeira said the correct method for removing the bug is to use fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight out.

Sequeira adds to check pets for ticks after hikes and to consult with your vet for preventive measures for your pets.

The Marin-Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District also has several tips for tick-safe landscaping, including trimming lawns and bushes, removing leaves and litter and putting down gravel or wood chips barriers around your property to deter the bugs.

So how common are infected ticks in Sonoma County?

The district’s regular tick surveillance program goes to parks to collect and test western black-legged ticks. Dr. Kelly Liebman, Scientific Programs Manager at the district, says that in Sonoma County, they generally see infection in about 1.6% of adult ticks and 4.2% of nymphs.

The district has tested over 8,500 adult and over 2,400 nymphs since 2008.

Despite the tick population, the CDC reported that California has a low incidence of Lyme disease, with 82 confirmed cases in 2019, the most recent year that it collected data on the disease.

“Tick populations tend to be variable by year and can even be variable within a park,” Liebman said. “What I tell people is that it’s tick season in California pretty much all year round. But I wouldn’t let the idea that the bacteria is out there prohibit you from going out and enjoying nature. I would just recommend taking precautions before entering anywhere you might have ticks.”

For more information, visit msmosquito.org/ticks.

About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease, the most common in America, that is transmitted by an infected black-legged (deer) tick.

Symptoms include fever, skin rash, headache and fatigue. Some classic characteristics of the skin rash are a lighter, or dusky center, that may also resemble a target with multiple circles. The center can also appear bluish or as if it is clearing. Bright red oval shapes are also common as is a crusty lesion in the center of a red rash. See photos or rashes and look-alike rashes on the CDC’s website.

Typically if caught in its early stages, people will recover quickly through antibiotic treatment.

Prevent tick bites

Before entering tick habitat, apply a tick repellent to exposed skin with a suggested EPA-registered active ingredient (DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD).

Treat clothes and equipment with an acaricide that contains permethrin.

Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks.

Wear long pants and long sleeves.

Stay on trails to avoid brushing by grasses where questing ticks wait.

Avoid contact with leaf litter and logs where nymph ticks wait.

Shower after coming inside and check for ticks and bites.

Tumble dry clothes for 10 minute on high heat to kill ticks.

If a tick is on you or a pet, remove it immediately to reduce contracting a tick-borne disease. Using tweezers, remove it at the head using steady pressure in an upward motion. Do not twist or jerk the tick to avoid breaking off the mouth and leaving any tick part in the skin.

Thoroughly clean the bite area and hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Consult a physician if pain or redness develops in the bite area.

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