High risk now for tick-borne Lyme disease in northeast Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

High risk now for tick-borne Lyme disease in northeast Iowa


Ticks are out in full force right now, meaning the risks of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are high.

People out enjoying this beautiful weather are finding ticks on themselves and their pets.

Experts say right now ticks are especially hard to spot, as most of them are still in nymph stage and therefore smaller.

On Friday, a group of fourth graders from Dubuque's Prescott Elementary School hiked around the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area. Thanks for a quick tick lesson from teachers the day before, fourth graders Javé Richmond and Lashanti Martin were both prepared when they each discovered a tick crawling on them.

Passing on advice about warding off ticks, Richmond said, "make sure you always wear a hat because you might need it because, remember, they can get in trees, and make sure you wear long sleeves, because if you don't, all they gotta do is just climb up your clothes, find an open spot and bite you."

Martin recommends wearing long pants when hiking in the woods.

"Grab your sock and pull it over your pants and make sure they're long socks so the ticks won't crawl in," she said, demonstrating. "Ticks are nasty and stuff, but you'll get over it."

Both students stayed calm and alerted their teachers to the tick. Fortunately, the ticks had not yet bitten either student.

There are three main species of tick found in Iowa, and only one of them carries the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. That's the deer tick, also known as the blacklegged tick. That's according to a tick publication from Iowa State University.

Iowa State's Lyme Disease Surveillance Program, taking Iowa tick data gathered since 1990, found the highest risk of Lyme disease is right here in northeast Iowa.

The other two species of tick are the wood tick, also known as the American dog tick, and the lone star tick, more prevalent in southern Iowa. The two carry bacteria that can cause other illnesses but not Lyme disease.

"I tell people when they get home or when they get a chance, check themselves over, their kids and especially their pets to make sure there's no ticks on them," Mines of Spain park ranger Wayne Buchholtz said.

Last year's unusual spring weather kept the tick numbers low, he said, but this year's normal spring weather has brought out a lot of them.

Iowa State tick experts say it usually takes at least 36 hours for an infected tick to transmit Lyme disease bacteria to a human.

Experts urge anybody who has a tick biting them to take a tweezers, grasp the tick's mouthparts where they enter the skin, pull it out and then disinfect the site of the bite.

Anybody bit by a tick can send it to Iowa State's Lyme Disease Surveillance Program, which will test it for illness-causing bacteria. It suggests putting the tick in a zip lock bag along with a blade of grass and mailing it to them.

That address is:

Department of Entomology

Lyme Disease Project

436 Science Hall II

Iowa State University

Ames, IA 50011-3222

For more information on ticks in Iowa, check out ISU's tick publication: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/publications/pm2036.pdf

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