Summer Months Bring Threat of Tick-Borne Disease

During the summer, families that embrace fun in the sun, hikes through the woods and even running through sprinklers will be back at risk from an age old parasite, the tick. Tick season peaks at the height of summer's heat, and the incidence of tick-borne disease follows a similar bell curve that spikes in summer months.

The blacklegged tick transmits Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease in the United States. Lyme disease most often occurs in the Northeastern states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey; in the upper mid-western states of Wisconsin and Minnesota; and in the Western states of California and Oregon. However, the CDC showed confirmed cases of Lyme disease in 45 states in 2007. Other, less common, tick-borne illnesses include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI).

According to National Pest Management Association (NPMA) Technical Services Director Jim Fredericks, ticks are often associated with deep woods but many thrive in habitats near homes and businesses, especially where tall grass, weeds, and brush might be present.

"Ticks usually do not prefer neatly trimmed lawns but will populate gardens or overgrown areas including woods," says Fredericks. "Pest control technicians can treat grass/vegetation near homes or businesses where people may come in contact with ticks to help protect people from illnesses like Lyme disease."

The NPMA offers the following five tips to help protect homeowners from tick encounters this summer:

  • Avoid tick habitats, if possible, such as low-growing brushy vegetation along the edge of the woods or a trail.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, and tuck your pant legs into your socks and your shirt bottoms into your pants, to make ticks more readily visible.
  • Apply repellents with DEET (n, n-diethyl-m-toluamide) to clothing and any exposed skin.
  • Check yourself thoroughly after you have been in known or potential tick-infested areas.

Ticks must be attached for more than 24 hours before they can transmit any pathogen, therefore finding and removing all ticks in a timely manner is critical to preventing disease.