Experts forecasting heavy tick season this summer

Managing Editor

(May 30, 2017) Public health experts are forecasting this summer to be one of the heaviest tick seasons and are urging caution in wooded areas and stepped up detection efforts.
Many news outlets have cited the mild winter with triggering the tick population boom but the National Pest Management Association says it goes much deeper than that.
Oak trees produced an extremely large acorn crop in 2010, which led to a boom in the white-footed mouse population last year. As a result, the deer tick population also increased because the ticks had an abundance of mice to feed on when they hatched.
However, the association says this spring those same ticks will be looking for their second meal as nymphs, but a decline in the mice population may force them to find new warm-blooded host and that’s where we humans come in.
While Lyme Disease remains a serious concern when it comes to ticks, the lesser known Powassan virus is the reason for amplified warnings nationwide. The virus dates back to 1958 in the United States and has had relatively low incidence rate, about 75 reported cases in the United States in the last 10 years, but about 10 percent of cases are fatal and many others cause long term neurological problems.
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Powassan. And it’s only recently that the virus has crossed over to deer ticks from other species, adding to the calls for caution.
Symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures but many who have contracted the virus did not develop any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
So far, there have been no reported Powassan cases in Maryland.
The NPMA offers the following tick tips:
• Use tick repellent when outdoors and wear long sleeved shirts and pants, preferably light in color, so ticks are easier to detect. Tuck pant legs into boots when walking through tall grass or brush;
• Keep grass cut low, including around fences, sheds, trees, shrubs and swing sets. Remove weeds, woodpiles and other debris from the yard;
• Use preventative medicine on pets, as prescribed by your veterinarian;
• Once indoors, inspect clothing and your entire body. Check family members and pets that have been outdoors;
• If you find a tick on your body, remove it with a slow, steady pull so as not to break off the mouthparts and leave them in the skin. Then, wash hands and bite site thoroughly with soap and water.  Ticks should be flushed down a toilet or wrapped in tissue before disposing in a closed receptacle; and
• If you suspect a tick bite, seek medical attention.