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What You Need to Know About Ticks and Lyme Disease

By David Hart
7/28/2014 11:04:20 AM

Did you know May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month? Of course you didn't. Every month is Lyme and tick awareness month for a hunter. Although the little bloodsuckers are active mostly during the warmer months, it's not out of the question to pick up a parasite any time the temperature rises above 45 degrees. That means turkey hunters and early-season bowhunters in particular are at high risk for tick bites.

Most bites are harmless annoyances that leave an itchy red mark after we pull the tick off. Others can lead to a debilitating illness or even death. More than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported to the Centers for Disease Control in 2012, a record that will likely be broken in coming years. At least 10 deaths were attributed to Lyme disease in Massachusetts alone in 2012.

Know your ticks and learn how to avoid Lyme disease.

1) Tick Check

Ticks can find their way past clothing, even with a proven repellent coating your clothes. That's why you need to check your body regularly. Any itch should be inspected immediately; tick bites can start itching as soon as the parasite sinks its head into your skin.

One study published by the CDC found that Lyme disease infection rates were highest among children ages 5 to 9. They contracted Lyme disease at 8.6 cases per 100,000. Check your children routinely, especially in the spring and summer. Adults aged 55 to 59 had the second-highest infection rates at 7.8 per 100,000. Males aged 2 to 24 had the lowest rates of Lyme disease.

2) Ticks Are Not Insects

Ticks are arachnids. So are spiders and mites, which ticks are closely related to. All arachnids have eight legs and two body segments. Only two species of ticks carry the Lyme bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi: blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) and western blacklegged ticks.

Other species include the Lone Star tick, American dog tick, brown dog tick and Rocky Mountain wood tick. They don't carry LD, but they can harbor other nasty diseases.

3) Learn The Symptoms

The good news is that Lyme disease usually takes at least 36 hours before it is transmitted from carrier to host, so check yourself daily. The bad news? Those tiny "seed" ticks that are difficult to see are usually responsible for transmitting LD. Once you pull an embedded tick, keep an eye on the bite area.

The first sign of LD is a bull's-eye shaped rash. Flu-like symptoms follow and joint pain sets in soon after that. The bull's-eye rash often does not appear for a week or two but lasts for up to six weeks. The circle can grow to 5 or more inches in diameter. Watch for severe fatigue, acute joint pain, a stiff neck and even tingling in your extremities.

Find more tips at Game and Fish.

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