Pennsylvania Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell remind Pennsylvanians that tick-borne diseases are present across the state, encouraged residents to seek treatment if they have been bitten by a tick and provided tips to prevent tick bites from occurring.
“As we head into the summer months, we are encouraging all Pennsylvanians to protect themselves when spending time outdoors,” Acting Secretary Beam said. “We have seen increases in tick bite-related emergency department visits in nearly all regions across the state and while this trend is expected this time of year, it’s an important reminder that tick-borne diseases continue to be prevalent in Pennsylvania. If you have been bitten by a tick and are showing symptoms of a tick-borne illness, it’s important that you contact your health care provider to get treatment as soon as possible.”
The Wolf Administration reminds Pennsylvania residents and visitors of simple ways to reduce their chances of being bitten by ticks:
- 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
“Outdoors enthusiasts should be prepared and proactive when they enter our state parks and forests, especially with regard to the presence of ticks and the possible contraction of other tick-borne diseases,” Secretary Dunn said. “Taking these precautions and safeguards are important in ensuring an experience free of tick-borne diseases. DCNR remains committed to informing the public and equipping our employees with the necessary tools to address tick bites.”
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.
Ticks are most likely to infect humans during the late spring and summer but can also infect humans year-round.
“We are happy to announce that the Tick Surveillance and Testing Program has completed all collections and testing from the adult blacklegged tick survey that began last October. More than 3,000 ticks were individually tested for four human pathogens including Borrelia burgdorferi (the causative agent of Lyme disease), Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti and Deer tick virus (Powassan virus lineage II). More than half of the ticks tested were infected with Lyme disease,” said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
The results are as follows detailing the infection rates in the ticks: Lyme 58%; Anaplasma 12%; Babesia 3.7%; and Deer tick virus 0.6%. These results are consistent with findings from previous surveys.