Mild winter, wet spring giving way to ‘explosion’ in local tick and mosquito population; how to protect yourself.

Mild winter, wet spring giving way to ‘explosion’ in local tick and mosquito population; how to protect yourself.

The American Dog Tick commonly found in Georgia. (photo from the Centers for Disease Control)

 

This year’s mild winter and early spring created a few problematic situations…an increase in snake activity and a surge in pesky ticks and mosquitoes. Hometown Headlines’ Natalie Simms takes a look at the situation in Northwest Georgia in this two-part series on outdoor dangers. Click here to read the first part of the series on snakes from Monday.

By Natalie Simms
nsimmshh@att.net

While this year’s mild winter and early spring temperatures have allowed folks to enjoy the outdoors, the combination also has created a rather pesky tick situation. In addition, the local mosquito population is expected to explode given all the recent wet weather.

“We have a bad tick problem right now,” says Keith Mickler, UGA Extension coordinator in Floyd County. “Of course, they are in the wooded areas more but they hang in the shrubs, trees and taller grasses, just waiting to latch on to something or someone.”

Aside from the weather, we can thank the huge increase in ticks to an abundance of mice.

“We’ve not had much of a winter so that is one reason. But we’ve also had an explosion of different kinds of mice in our area. When ticks first hatch, they latch onto mice. When you have more mice, you will have more ticks,” he says.

There are a number of tick-borne illnesses transmitted by these creatures but the one of most concern in Northwest Georgia is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, according to Logan Boss with the Northwest Georgia District Public Health office.

“There are some Lyme Disease cases that are tick-borne but they are very rare in Georgia. Those that are diagnosed with it in Georgia usually have been bitten while traveling outside the state,” he says.

According to Health District reports, there have not been any confirmed cases of RMSF in our area this year. The last confirmed case in Floyd County was in 2013. Bartow, Chattooga, Gordon and Polk all had less than five confirmed cases last year.

Boss says to “remember the A-B-C’s of tick prevention”:

A: Avoid ticks…stay away from brush, walk in the middle of a trail and not against the side in brush.

B: Bug spray…use an EPA registered bug repellant that has 20-40% DEET and follow instructions for applying to children.

C: Clothing…be sure to conceal flesh as much as possible by wearing long pants, tucked in socks and long-sleeve shirts.

“After you’ve been outside, do a tick check once you come inside,” says Boss.

Even if you aren’t outside in tall grass or hiking in the woods, these pesky creatures can easily latch onto your pet and bring them into your home.

“It’s very important to keep your animals treated with a good product recommended by your veterinarian. Because if your pets come inside, they will most definitely bring in ticks and even fleas,’ says Mickler.

What if you find a tick on you? The Centers for Disease Control gives these tick-removal guidelines:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  4. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick. Click here for symptoms of tick-borne illnesses.

In addition to ticks, the local mosquito population is expected to be huge this summer given the 17-plus inches of rain we’ve received over the last 90 days.

“Given the weather conditions and if they continue, we will have an explosion of mosquitoes,” says Mickler. “It’s important to keep containers clean of any pooled water. Clean your pet’s bowls daily. Clean bird baths at least once a week. Watch the kids’ little swimming pools…anywhere there is water, there can be mosquitos. It will definitely be an interesting season.”

Boss says the two main concerns with mosquitoes are transmission of West Nile or Zika virus. Click here to read more about Zika or West Nile.

“West Nile is now found in every state. Last year, we only had six cases in Georgia and none in Northwest Georgia,” says Boss. “We had 118 cases of Zika in Georgia last year but all of those were travel-related, and not local transmission in Georgia.”

The best defense is reducing the mosquito population.

“Most mosquitoes never travel more than several hundred feet from where they are born,” he says. “We remind folks to tip n’ toss. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. To reduce the mosquito population around your home and property, eliminate all standing water and debris.”

As far as protecting your skin, Boss says to follow the same precautions as with ticks, including using a bug repellent with DEET and protective clothing.

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