Deer Ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease to humans, were found this spring in wooded areas around Erie.
The long, snowy winter of Erie County did not seem to reduce the number of ticks in wooded areas from Presque Isle State Park to Plateau.
A recent warm-up sent people to the Erie County Department of Health's ticks, which they found on their clothes and, in some cases, attached to their bodies.
"Every time it heats up a bit, at least 40 degrees, we get people who bring ticks for identification and phone calls from people who say they've been bitten by a tick," said Breanna Adams, an environmental protection specialist of the Erie County Department of Health. "This winter was no different." Monitoring of ticks in northwestern Pennsylvania is a public health issue as deer ticks are the most common way to spread Lyme disease to people in this part of the country. Deer Ticks carry the bacterial disease and can transmit it to humans if they bite and feed on it.
The number of residents of Erie County diagnosed with Lyme disease has increased significantly in recent years, the Department of Health reported. It rose from 71
"I think there are more people with Lyme disease than five or ten years ago," Dr. Nancy Weissbach, an infectious disease specialist with St. Vincent Hospital. "Not only are more people being diagnosed with the disease."
Lyme disease causes flu-like symptoms and a pronounced bull rash in the initial stages. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to facial paralysis, severe headache and neck stiffness, joint pain, heart problems, and brain and spinal cord inflammation.
It is important that someone is treated with Lyme disease as soon as it is initial signs of the disease, said Weissbach. The treatment usually consists of oral antibiotics taken over 10 to 21 days.
"Lyme disease is easily treatable in the early stages," said Weissbach. "It can be treated later, but you may need IV antibiotics, and you may be left with some residual symptoms, even though the bacteria are out of the body."
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid deer ticks. This is not as easy as it has been since the infected ticks spread from Presque Isle – where they were discovered in this region some 30 years ago – to forests and fields throughout northwestern Pennsylvania.
Deer Ticks prefer dark, humid places near the bottom
"They usually live in the leaf-litter and brush areas where a wooded area hits a field," Adams said. "They also like the sides of paths that are a bit overgrown, and they're found along Presque Isle's roads, not on the beaches."
Ray Bierbower, an environmental education specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, spends a lot of time on the paths and paths of Presque Isle.
He knows what to do to prevent tick bites when he goes on the runway
"I put my pants legs in my socks so the ticks can not come in and crawl up my leg," Bierbower said. "I treat my clothes with permethrin, which is great for keeping ticks off you, or you can use it on your gear and tent."
Permethrin holds up to six washes, but must not be sprayed directly onto the skin. It is recommended to use insects with DEET on exposed skin.
As soon as Bierbower returns from a hike, he removes all his clothes and puts them in the dryer to kill ticks. Then he takes a shower and inspects his body.
"I make sure to check the warm spots: forearms, groins, and my scalp," Bierbower said.
When a tick is found, Bierbower first checks if it is attached to his body. Attached ticks should be removed with tweezers, not Vaseline or any other home remedy.
"Approach the tick head as best it can with the forceps and pull it out as it penetrates your skin," Bierbower said. "Make sure you do not leave his head there."
Save the tick by placing it in a bag and storing it in the freezer. You can bring the tick to the health department for identification.
If you develop a bull's-eye rash or flu-like symptoms in the next 10 days, consult your doctor, Weissbach said.
"Do not ignore the symptoms," said Weissbach. "Get tested and, if you have Lyme disease, be treated."
David Bruce can be reached at 870-1736 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNbruce.