Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mountain Lions and Bears not your biggest outdoor threat in Missouri

These black-legged ticks, Ixodes scapularis, a...
These black-legged ticks, Ixodes scapularis, are found on a wide range of hosts including mammals, birds and reptiles. Black-legged ticks, I. scapularis are known to transmit Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, to humans and animals during feeding, when they insert their mouth parts into the skin of a host, and slowly take in the nutrient-rich host blood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We write a fair amount about sightings of mountain lions and bears and some people get worried about one that might be crouched right behind the fence in their backyard.  That's pretty unlikely, but one critter I can just about guarantee is out there and waiting to cause mayhem is the good old tick.

Recently, the Missouri Department of Conservation released a statement urging outdoorsmen and women to exercise caution with regard to tick-born disease, and particularly so with regard to lyme disease.  It seems like we have noticed an increase in the number of ticks the last couple of years -could this be from warmer winters? A wet spring this year?

According to Jim Low of the MDC, the diseases that ticks carry in Missouri include ehrlichiosis, tularemia, anaplasmosis, southern tick-associated rash illness, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme or Lyme-like disease.  He goes on to say, "left untreated, these diseases can be fatal. Even with timely medical treatment, they can cause long-term problems that include persistent pain, fatigue, impaired mental function, and unexplained numbness."

None of these symptoms are ones that we would wish to encounter!

Precautions for preventing tick exposure are pretty standard.  They include wearing light colored clothing, wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts in the woods, tucking pant legs into boot-socks, using minimum 20% DEET repellant, and doing thorough tick checks upon coming out of the woods.  I have also noticed that Mr. Low and the MDC have been suggesting putting your clothes in the drier for one hour on high heat when you get out of them as this will kill off ticks still on you.  I am doubtful that many folks are using that suggestion.  Finally, take a shower after you get in.  You're likely dirty and sweaty anyhow, and you will likely wash off any ticks not attached yet and notice any that are.

If you have a tick firmly attached, use tweezers and try to get ahold of the little critter as close to your skin as possible. Remove with an upward movement without twisitng or jerking.  After you remove the tick clean everything including the bite area with rubbing alcohol.  If you begin to notice symptoms of any of the diseases mentioned, see a doctor right away.

Like anything else in the outdoors, a little attention to safety will go along ways.  Follow these steps and your time in the woods should be enjoyable.