Staying safe during tick season in the Tri-Cities

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Tick season has arrived.

According to experts, peak season usually runs between May and August. 

“In general, over the last 20 years,” said Dr. T.J. Jones, ETSU Biological Sciences Professor, “winters have been getting milder and tick populations, as well as incidents of tick-borne diseases, have been on the increase.”

However, Jones said it’s hard to predict the outlook of this year’s tick population because it is usually based on a variety of factors.

“It wasn’t a very cold winter, so perhaps it will be a little bit higher,” he said. 

American dog, brown dog and lone star ticks are the most common types found in East Tennessee.

Jones says the American dog and lone star ticks can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but the likelihood of getting the disease is very rare.

Deer ticks, which carry lyme disease, are noticeably absent in East Tennessee.

“However,” said Jones, “deer ticks are very close to here, ranging into southwest Virginia and there is an out break of lyme disease around the Roanoke area.”

That can mean cases of lyme disease can be carried in to Tennessee from other states.

“The best things to do,” said Dr. Andrew Pisacano, veterinarian at Robinson Animal Hospital in Johnson City, “and I recommend doing this all year round, is keeping your pets on a flee and tick medicine.”

Pisacano said pets can either take a pill, have a topical medicine applied, or wear a tick collar to prevent the parasites.

“These medicines are very effective,” he said. “As soon as the tick bites them, I found that the ticks will immediately start to feel the effects of the medicine and slow down.”

To protect yourself, Dr. Jones suggests keeping brush low around the home, wearing long sleeves and long pants and using repellents containg DEET or permethrin.

He also said doing a tick check after being outdoors is important.

It is also advised you should talk to you doctor immediately after you have been bitten.

“They’re easy to treat, particularly if caught early,” said Jones. “However, if gone untreated, the ramifications could be potentially be premanent or even lead to death.”

Typical symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever include headaches, high fever, chills and even nausea, as well as red spots or rashes on the skin.

Lyme disease can also have many similar symptoms including muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a bulls-eye pattern rash. 

Lyme disease vaccines are available for pets, but there are currently no lyme disease vaccines available for people. 

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