Dakota Digest - 06/19/2012
Spring time in South Dakota brings to life tiny critters that are looking for a good meal. Gia Danson says it's important to protect yourself and your family from these blood-sucking, hard-to-detect insects.
"It's not just your pets that are going to get them. They'll get on you, they'll get on your children, they'll get in your carpet, they'll get in your house, and they're nasty," says Danson.
Gia Danson is the Care Coordinator for the Canyon Lake Veterinary Hospital. As SDPB's Amy Varland reports on today's Dakota Digest, there are many facts about ticks people may not be aware of.
Here I am in tick country. I'm taking a walk along the creek in a wooded area. Ticks tend to lurk in grassy areas and in low shrubs, watching and waiting for an unsuspecting tasty snack - like my dog and me - to approach.
"And they know when we're coming so as we near their legs start wiggling around and they're able to grab on and then they find a nice place to make a living for a little while," says Lundgren.
Dr. Jonathan Lundgren works with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Brookings.
"They like grassy areas and what happens is the adult female crawls to the top of a blade of grass and they wave their four legs around and they can actually sense a humans presence from afar based on heat and carbon dioxide emissions that we're giving off at all times," says Lundgren.
Ticks are actually stalking us.
Lundgren says ticks are sly so you may not notice them crawling up your leg, working their way up to a comfortable, warm area - like your armpit. It's crucial to do a tick-check on yourself after spending time outdoors because once attached, ticks will begin feeding on your blood.
Not only are humans a target for ticks, pets make a fine host as well.
And a Grand Central Station for pets with ticks is the Black Hills Humane Society - they take in dogs and cats from across western South Dakota.
Jacque Harvey is the Operations Manager for the Humane Society of the Black Hills. She sees lots of ticks.
"Well typically when an animal comes in - mostly dogs - they'll have them in their ears, between their toes on their paws. And they're usually big, like the size of nickels, and they have quite a few. We've had dogs with a hundred or more ticks. So what we do is pick them off and then we also put a topical treatment on them so that the ticks will start dying relatively quickly," says Harvey.
Once the tick has been removed, it should be disposed of properly by placing it in a container of rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits. This ensures that the tick will remain lifeless but intact - in case the need for testing arises.
Lon Kightlinger is the Epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health. Fortunately for us -- he says cases of tick-borne diseases do not appear to be on the rise in South Dakota.
"They're fairly level. We see variances from year to year. Some years we can get a dozen the next year we'll get six, then we won't have any then the year after that we'll have a dozen again. So it's up and down, up and down," says Kightlinger
Kightlinger says South Dakota is not home to the black-legged deer tick which causes lyme disease. Rather, it is home to the American dog tick, which carries tularemia - both of which if left untreated can cause death.
Kightlinger adds that although treatment is readily available - tick-borne illnesses are vaguely flu-like and difficult to diagnose.
"They can go unknown. A tick can get on you on a place that you can't see on your body. You don't really feel it - you won't know it's there and then and that it attaches, sucks blood, and while it's sucking your blood it'll inject the virus or the bacteria or the rickettsial microbe to make you sick," says Kightlinger.
If this story hasn't made you do a tick-check yet - now might be the time.
"Absolutely check yourself. Kids check their hair and you know just give a thorough exam if you will. Just find out, make sure you don't have any that are still crawling around, looking for a place to catch a meal," says Kightlinger.
Chad Tussing is the Director of Outdoor Campus West for Game Fish & Parks.
He can appreciate the intricate and complex nature of this disease-carrying insect that is so magnificently adapted to sucking blood.
"It's a part of nature. It's maybe not one that we like to think about sometimes but they do have a purpose. There are birds and reptiles that eat ticks and so they are a natural part of the world here and if you're smart and pay a little bit of attention then you can still be outside, you can still be enjoying yourself, and stay healthy as well," says Tussing.
Here I am in tick country again - a little more educated on ticks and their behavior, and somewhat less squeamish. But in reality, all this tick-talk still gives me a full-blown-case of the heebie-jeebies.
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