Tiny terrors: Insects active early after mild winter

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A mild winter and warm spring has more people outside and active — and they have company.

Ticks, mosquitoes and other insects are active earlier this year due to unseasonably warm weather and medical professionals are advising people to be cautious of themselves and their pets.

But most pests are just, well, pesky.

Only the black-legged ticks species carries lyme disease and it is rare in Kentucky. More cases are are reported in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the northeast.

There are some cases reported in Kentucky every year, including five confirmed cases in 2010, the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control.

Safe is better than sorry, though, according to Dr. Ann Roberts, who practices family medicine at Baptist Medical Associates in La Grange.
“Prevention is always the best,” she said.

Roberts advises wearing long pants and boots above the ankle — while wearing shorts might be cooler, she said shorts allow ticks to climb higher, finding hiding spots on a person’s torso.

It takes at least four hours of attachment to transmit lyme disease, Roberts said, although most cases take 48 hours to transmit.

Early symptoms of lyme disease include a bulls-eye rash around the bite site, but not all people get the rash. Roberts said flu-like symptoms, including a fever and body aches, are warning signs.

If a tick does attach, Roberts said not to dispose of it — it can be tested for lyme disease.

Roberts advises making daily body checks a habit.

Daily checks are good for pets, too, said Tanya Turner, owner of Hand-in-Paw Safety, a pet store in La Grange. Ear folds, legs and armpit areas are common hiding places.

Turner said pets don’t need to be in wooded areas to pick up ticks — they’re in yards, too.

Flea collars and medications also help, and Turner said there are natural products available for pets allergic to other chemical repellants.

Goshen Animal Clinic staff are seeing a lot more ticks already, according to David Dunbar, the hospital administrator. The clinic has a sign out front warning about ticks and information on its website.

For example, Dunbar said, a client recently brought her dog to the clinic. The dog stays indoors but had picked up two ticks just in the time it took to walk to the car.

Ticks, including the dog tick and lone-star tick, both common in Kentucky, can also carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Like lyme disease, a tick must be attached for four to six hours for transmission. Symptoms are similar and include a rash and high fever. There are about 10-30 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever reported in Kentucky each year.

Dog ticks and lone-star ticks are larger species, about the size of a pencil eraser. Black-legged ticks are smaller, about the size of the head of a pin.
The CDC recommends removing ticks with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, gripping the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull straight up with steady pressure, as twisting or jerky can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain lodged in the skin.

Email us about this story at: tharris@oldhamera.com.