A new tick disease that is becoming more common in Pennsylvania

Mike Barkaski

Mike Barkaski

In the morning, I took care of about 30 maple faucets, collected sap and boiled it in syrup. When the fire and the propane burner were doing them, I headed for a cup of coffee. At that time, I felt itching on my back, and when I scratched it, I immediately found that I picked up a small hitchhiker.

It may have been a small tick, but it was buried quite deeply. It took me a few minutes to find my favorite tick removal tool, Tick Twister. As this little crowbar-like device slides between the tick and the skin, it only takes a few rotations to get rid of the tick, head, everything.

I wasn’t too worried about Lyme disease because I decided that the ticks only took a few hours. Nevertheless, the tick went into a plastic sandwich bag labeled with my name and date. The little bagger will spend next month or so in the freezer in case I show any symptoms. I usually get rid of a dozen ticks each year and know the routine.

A few days later, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission published a news release on my computer about a new tick disease that is becoming more common in the state. Anyone who spends time outdoors seems to need to enhance their tick prevention games.

According to the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Agency, Lyme disease has been found in all 67 counties, and a rare but dangerous deer mite virus has increased.

Deer mite virus has been identified in 15 counties, and there are three locations where mite infection rates exceed 80%. The virus was found at Lawrence Township Recreation Park in Clearfield County with the highest infection rate (92%) ever this year. Public fishing grounds on the Iroquoit Trail near Fishermans Paradise in Center County and Tunkhannock in Wyoming County also showed infection rates according to the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Agency’s tick monitoring and testing program.

Unlike Lyme disease, which takes more than 12 hours to transmit from ticks to humans, the deer mite virus can be transmitted within 15 minutes of being bitten by a tick. The virus causes encephalitis and meningitis, which can lead to hospitalization. The mortality rate of this virus is about 12 percent in people with severe illness.

Prevention is the best behaviour. Use permethrin-containing mite repellents on clothing and EPA-registered insect repellents such as DEET on exposed skin before going out. Follow the instructions on the product label and reapply if necessary. Put on light-colored clothes, put your shirt in your trousers, and put your trousers in your socks. Be sure to handle these areas thoroughly. When you get home, take a shower, wash your clothes, and dry them over high heat. Check your body for ticks and don’t forget about your pet.

While tick-borne diseases are more prevalent, you don’t have to be scared or avoid your favorite outdoor past times. You just need to take special precautions.

You can contact Mike Barcaskey at [email protected]

This article was originally published in the Beaver County Times: Outdoors: A new tick disease that is becoming more common in Pennsylvania