Bitten residents can submit insects to State to identify for treatment guidance

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As the summer season approaches and people and their pets begin enjoying more time outdoors, the risk of tick-borne disease transmission is at its peak. In recognition of this, Governor Larry Hogan has proclaimed May as Tick-borne Disease Awareness Month. The Maryland Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and Agriculture (MDA) join the Governor to remind Marylanders to enjoy the outdoors, but to keep ticks off.

“We want Marylanders to enjoy the natural beauty found in our great state,” says DHMH Secretary Van Mitchell. “But we want them to safeguard their health while they do it, by being mindful of ticks and the diseases they spread.”

In the state of Maryland, the most common ticks are the lone star tick, the blacklegged tick, and the American dog tick. Ticks survive by consuming blood from hosts, which can be humans, dogs, cats or other warm-blooded animals. It is important to be aware that ticks can transmit infectious diseases when they bite you.

Immature ticks are extremely small and can be in wooded areas, brushy fields, high grass and even in your own backyard. Maryland residents are urged to protect themselves, their children, and their pets against tick-borne diseases and to take precautions when participating in outside activities.

“When preparing for outdoor activities, be sure to apply insect repellent to protect against ticks,” said Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, DHMH Deputy Secretary of Public Health.

Lyme disease is the third-most-common communicable disease reported in the state of Maryland, and more than 1,300 Lyme disease cases were reported in 2014. Other diseases that can be transmitted by ticks include anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain and other spotted fever diseases, and tularemia. Most tick-borne diseases can be cured with antibiotics, especially when treatment is started early.

“As a public service to residents, MDA entomologists can identify any tick submitted to the department,” says Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder. “This valuable information can be used in discussions with medical professionals who can discuss treatment options if necessary.”

Residents interested in determining what kind of tick they have can go online to download a tick identification form at http://mda.maryland.gov/plants-pests/Documents/tickid.pdf. Be sure to fill out the form completely, tape the tick (do not send photos) to a small piece of paper or put into a dry container— do not use alcohol.

Mail the tick and identification form to: Maryland Department of Agriculture

Plant Protection & Weed Management Section, 50 Harry S. Truman Pkwy,

Annapolis, MD 21401.

MDA will respond with a letter of identification, usually within about two weeks. MDA does not test ticks for disease organism and does not discuss medical treatments, but the identification information can be discussed with a medical professional.

Also, DHMH’s tick-bite notification form, which features pictures of ticks to aid with identification, can be downloaded from http://goo.gl/WB0vv6.

Additional information about tick-borne such diseases as Lyme disease— including posters and other materials— can be found at DHMH’s website at http://goo.gl/WRQsZz.

Here are some tips to help protect against ticks:

*Look for ticks, especially in late spring through early fall, when they are most active.

*Wear long pants and sleeves to help keep ticks off your skin.

*Tuck your shirt into your pants, and pants into socks, to keep ticks on the outside of clothing.

*Wear light-colored clothing to help you spot ticks more easily.

*Spray insect repellent containing 20-30 percent DEET on clothes and exposed skin.

*Treat clothes with permethrin, but don’t use permethrin directly on skin.

*Talk to your veterinarian about tick control products for your pets.

*Ticks are most commonly found in woods, marshy places, bushes, shrubs, leaf litter, and tall grass.

*When hiking, walk in the center of the trail when in woods or high grass. Stay away from brushy areas, high grass and leaf litter.

*Check for ticks daily after being in tick habitat.

*Properly remove ticks from the body or pets and send to MDA for identification. Contact your health care provider if you develop any symptoms after a tick bite or after being in tick habitat.

DHMH and MDA routinely join with local health departments, health care providers, veterinarians, community organizations and advocacy groups to raise awareness about tick-borne diseases in the month of May.

Some local health departments may be conducting activities in recognition of Tick-borne Disease Awareness Month. Check with your local office to find out what activities may be planned, such as distribution of educational materials, display of the Governor’s Proclamation or events.