Warm weather means it’s time for ticks.
Partly due to climate change, the range of many tick species is expanding. It once was unusual to find ticks in the higher mountains of northwestern North Carolina but that’s no longer true.
There are species in Wilkes County now, like the lone star tick with its white spot, that weren’t here just a few decades ago.
The latest new tick on the scene in North Carolina and Wilkes County is the Asian longhorned tick, first reported in the United States in 2017.
In 2019, the state confirmed that a Surry County farmer lost five cows to the Asian longhorned tick, essentially from bleeding to death. A young deceased bull with more than 1,000 ticks on it was brought into the state’s Northwestern Animal Disease Diagnostic lab in Elkin. The owner lost four other cows under the same circumstances.
By 2020, the Asian longhorned tick had been confirmed in Wilkes, Surry, Alexander, Polk, Rutherford and Davidson, Madison, Haywood, Macon and Rowan counties.
The deer tick (blacklegged tick), brown dog tick, American dog tick and Gulf coast tick are also in North Carolina. Tick-borne diseases found in the Southeast include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and tularemia.
Most tick bites are harmless and won’t cause physical symptoms so the possibility of being bitten by a tick shouldn’t keep people from being active outdoors. Certain precautions are still prudent.
The CDC suggests treating clothes and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin or wearing permethrin-treated clothing. Certain insect repellants also are effective.
When selecting a site for camping, check for ticks by dragging a piece of white flannel cloth or clothing over the grass and shrubs and then examining it for ticks.
When out hiking, try to stay in the middle of a trail and limit contact with tall grass and brush. Treat dogs with medicine that helps keep them tick-free.
After being in tick-prone places, check clothing for ticks. Clothes can be tumble-dried on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks.
Showering within two hours of being in tick-prone places reduces risks of getting Lyme disease and may do the same with other tick-borne diseases. Showering can wash off unattached ticks and is a good chance for a tick check. Pay special attention to the underarms, back of the knees, in and near hair, between the legs and around the waist.
If you see a tick on your body, use tweezers to take it off right away. Clean hands and the exposed area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol
Even after being bitten, it takes several hours for a tick to transmit the pathogen. Prompt removal can greatly reduce chances of becoming ill from a tick bite.