Hopes that the cold winter would kill off ticks appear to be lost; the pests are active and biting throughout Arkansas, according to information from the University of Arkansas Extension. Arkansas’ ticks use several ways to survive the winter such as finding protection in leaf litter and soil, some species may overwinter on a host animal, extension entomologist Kelly Loftin said in a press release.
“This spring we’re seeing an abundance of Lone Star ticks and American dog ticks,” Loftin said in a press release. Other common species in Arkansas are the blacklegged tick, the winter tick, the Gulf Coast tick and the brown dog tick.
Along with ticks comes the threat of serious, even fatal, illnesses, Loftin warned. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, a Delaware, Okla. man recently died from complications of Heartland virus, a disease linked to the Lone Star tick; other cases of Heartland virus have been reported in Missouri and Tennessee.
Loftin said the Lone Star tick also might transmit Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI), ehrlichiosis and tularemia; the American Dog tick is considered the primary carrier of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Loftin said ticks should be removed promptly — the chance of tick-borne illness is greatly reduced if the tick removed within a few hours.
If the tick is attached, use clean, fine-tipped tweezers and steady pressure to pull the tick upward, Loftin said. Do not twist or jerk the tick as this can cause mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin.
After the tick is removed, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.
Tick-borne diseases can also cause serious illness in pets and other domestic animals, Loftin said. He advised checking them frequently and using tick-control products recommended by veterinarians.
Ways to avoid or prevent tick bites include:
— Avoid tick-infested areas; including dense vegetation or tall grass, ticks favor the zone where open fields meet forests.
— Use tick repellents, be sure to follow labeled instructions. Repellents containing DEET or clothing-only repellents containing permethrin are most commonly used.
— Find and remove ticks early. Check yourself, your children and pets frequently for ticks; light-colored clothing makes ticks easier to see. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after being in fields, woods or known tick-infested areas to wash off crawling ticks and find attached ticks.
— Create a tick-safe zone in your yard by clearing tall grass and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns. A three-foot-wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas will restrict tick migration into yards. Mow frequently, keep leaves raked, stack wood neatly and remove old furniture, mattresses or trash from yards.
— Examine equipment — ticks can ride into the home on clothing, pets, backpacks, etc.
— Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.