- Brenda Sterling-Goodwin
Be Aware Ticks are Active
The weather is certainly looking like spring has almost sprung and so has the tick activity. It is time to ramp up awareness and to be on top of taking precautions.
We should all know by now that Nova Scotia has the highest incidence of Lyme in Canada, if dogs can get Lyme so can people.
Tick life cycle on average takes two years. In the spring the adult female will lay her eggs in the area where she has dropped off after feeding/mating and then dies. The adult female could have been on the deer that was in your backyard when she dropped from her host. The eggs will hatch in the spring as six legged larvae and search out a blood meal on a variety of small mammal such as mice or birds that are feeding on the ground. The larvae are not infected when they hatch and pick up pathogens from their host during their first blood meal. The larvae will drop from their host to the ground where they will overwinter and molt. In the spring of the following year they emerge as eight legged nymphs and seek out a host with peak activity thought to be May to July. The weather plays a big part and with climate change they have been found much earlier. I could hazard to guess there may be some out now and it is only March. The nymphal ticks are very small, the size of a poppy seed and can transmit tick-borne pathogens to their host. If the nymph was not infected it can pick up pathogens if it feeds on an infected host. The nymphs after feeding will drop off and in the fall molt into an adult male or female. The adults then over the fall into winter and spring are seeking out larger mammalian hosts such as white-tail deer where they will feed, mate and drop off, lay eggs and die. The cycle begins again.
Ticks were thought to be only found in wooded areas and tall grass but today that is not so. Ticks can be found almost anywhere and everywhere. Birds fly and can drop ticks just as deer are found in increasing numbers in urban areas. Ticks can be found in your own back yard as well as school yards, parks and where ever. The possibility of being bitten by a tick should be on everyone’s radar. I know of situations where both the family dog and family members have been bitten and have Lyme, who knows what co-infections they could have also acquired.
It has been said that it takes 36 to 48 hours for the tick to transfer pathogens. This study was done on mice so it is difficult to say the time required for transmission to humans. It has been noted that dogs can be infected in as little as four hours. There is no safe tick attachment time as various other pathogens have been noted to be transmitted in as little as 15 minutes. You must also be aware of how to properly remove a tick. If the tick is agitated or squeezed it can inject pathogens into the bite site. It is important to not have contact with fluid from a ruptured tick especially if you have cuts and scratches on your hands. So many variables and still so much to learn about these blood sucking parasites.
Education is key!
- Brenda Sterling-Goodwin