Pennsylvania Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell, and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn met recently at Boyd Big Tree Preserve in Dauphin County, to discuss the high prevalence of ticks across Pennsylvania, highlight the numerous diseases that ticks can carry and remind residents of ways they can protect against tick bites.
“Ticks are most active during warmer months, which is why we typically see more instances of tick bites and cases of tick-borne diseases this time of year,” Dr. Johnson said.
“This year in particular, we are seeing increases in the number of Lyme disease reports across the state, and clinicians are reporting that they are seeing more cases of other tick-borne diseases, such as anaplasmosis. As Pennsylvanians continue to spend more time outdoors, we are urging everyone to take steps to prevent tick bites, such as wearing insect repellent, putting permethrin on their shoes, gear and clothing, and doing frequent tick checks.”
DEP collected two times more Blacklegged tick nymphs compared to last year. This is especially concerning considering the extremely small, poppy seed-like size of the nymphs.
“The increase in nymphs really drives home the message that we all need to adhere to the necessary precautions to stay safe from ticks,” said McDonnell.
Officials remind Pennsylvania residents and visitors of simple ways to reduce their chances of being bitten by ticks by cover exposed skin with lightweight and light-colored clothing, avoid tick-infested habitats such as areas dense with shrubbery or tall grass, use an EPA-approved insect repellent.
Once returning home, immediately check yourself, children, and pets for ticks. Take a shower immediately to remove ticks that may be crawling on skin. If possible, dry clothing and gear in a dryer to kill any ticks.
“It is always important to take preventative measures so you can enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of being in the outdoors, especially with regard to ticks,” Secretary Dunn said.
“As tick-borne diseases are becoming more prevalent in Pennsylvania, it is critical to be aware of the risks and be prepared when spending time outdoors year-round, whether that is visiting one of our 121 state parks, hiking our more than 2.2 million acres of state forestland, or enjoying your own backyard.”
Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the most common carrier of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and Powassan virus. Ticks typically thrive in tall grass, brush and wooded areas, but deer ticks have been found in every county in the commonwealth and can live in any habitat.
Common signs of a tick disease include fever, headache, chills and muscle aches. Lyme disease is often characterized by a bullseye-like rash, although Lyme disease may not always present itself with this obvious sign.
Additional symptoms for Powassan virus may include vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, or even seizures in severe cases. While transmission for Lyme disease from tick to human takes approximately 24 hours or more, Powassan transmission from a tick bite can happen in as little as 15 minutes. If you have symptoms that are consistent with a tick-borne disease, it is important to speak to a doctor immediately.