There are a variety of animals in the world considered dangerous to humans, but ticks don’t automatically jump to mind.
Often very small and difficult to identify, these bloodthirsty arachnids generally go unnoticed, hiding out in tall grasses or wooded areas until they get the chance to latch on to their prey.
But we should be more cautious of these minuscule creatures, says Dr. Rebecca Eisen, a research biologist in the Bacterial Diseases Branch of the Division of Vector-borne Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Tick-borne diseases are an increasing public health concern,” Eisen says. “We’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of tick-borne diseases that have been reported over recent decades (in the United States).”
Plus, more people are at risk of exposure to tick bites and tick-borne diseases since the geographic ranges of different ticks have expanded, she says.
According to the CDC, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the U.S., with more than 30,000 cases reported annually.
“That number has tripled since it became a notifiable condition in the early 1990s,” Eisen says.
In recent years, the CDC also has seen an increase in the number of disease-causing germs carried by ticks, Eisen says.
“So depending on what ticks you’re talking about, your risks are going to differ,” Eisen says. For instance, the black-legged tick is known to carry seven different pathogens that can make people sick, Eisen says.
The black-legged tick, the Lone Star Tick, and the American dog tick are all found in East Texas.
“If you’re looking at the Lone Star tick, that is going to be primarily a woodland-associated tick,” Eisen says. “Likewise the black-legged tick likes these forested areas but with a bit more humidity, and the American dog tick is commonly found in more grassy areas.”
Timothy King, superintendent of Daingerfield State Park in Daingerfield, says the park normally sees an increase in the number of ticks at the park as the weather gets warmer and summer begins. He says he’s already heard several different reports this season from visitors and fellow park personnel who mentioned finding ticks on their clothing or skin.
As long as people stay on the trails and wear the right clothing, they’ll be less susceptible to tick bites, King says.
“As a park ranger here at the park, I normally tell people that the best way to prevent ticks from biting you is to of course stay on the trails, wear long jeans and long sleeve shirts, and every hour or two, check yourself (for ticks),” King says. He also recommends wearing an EPA-approved insect repellent.
King says parks staff members try their best to keep the trails at Daingerfield State Park wide and well manicured, mainly so that snakes are more visible and visitors never feel the need to step off the trail. He says people may want to be more cautious in the Mountain View area of the park since it’s difficult to get machinery there and the trails are narrower and less manicured.
“Any kind of branches, brush or tall grass — that’s what ticks hang on to,” King says.
There are ways for people to protect themselves from ticks and prevent them from biting you, Eisen says. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Understand your risk
Know which ticks live in the area (either where you live or where you are visiting). Ticks can live in your own backyard or neighborhood. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html
Be aware of when ticks are active and avoid tick habitat when possible. Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails.
Wear EPA-registered repellent, treat clothing and gear with 0.5% permethrin, wear long pants and sleeves.
Perform a daily or hourly tick check. The faster you can remove a tick, the lower your risk of getting sick from a tick bite, Eisen says. See how to remove one here: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html
Shower soon after being outdoors. This may help wash off unattached ticks and is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
See more details here: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.htm
Symptoms of Tick-borne Illness:
• Aches and pains (headache, fatigue, muscle aches)
See more details here: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/symptoms.html