You may have heard that the Department of Environmental Health Vector Control Program tests mosquitoes for West Nile virus, but did you know that the Program also tests ticks for diseases like tularemia and Lyme disease? It’s true – every year, technicians using canvass “flags” collect ticks along the hiking trails of San Diego County. Ticks are sorted by species and then tested for specific diseases that can be transmitted to humans. When diseases are detected in ticks, informational notices are posted to alert hikers and remind them of things they can do to protect themselves.
So what can you do? Adult ticks cling to the tips of grasses and shrubs waiting for animals or people to brush by so they can hitch a ride. When hiking or walking, it is important to stay in the middle of designated trails and away from the brush along the sides. Wear light colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks and tuck your pants into your socks or boots. Repellents for clothing and skin are also available which repels mosquitoes as well!
It’s also important to discuss tick control options with your veterinarian to protect your pets. When returning from a hike, always check yourself and your pets for ticks. Removing them within 24 hours lowers your risk of getting a tick-borne disease.
How do you safely remove ticks? The safest and most effective way to remove ticks is to use tweezers to grab the tick as close to your skin as possible. With a firm, steady motion pull the tick straight out – do not jerk or twist it out. Avoid trying to suffocate the tick with petroleum jelly or nail polish and do not try to burn the tick. These techniques are ineffective and can lead to injuries. Once the tick is removed, wash your hands and the bite area and apply an antiseptic to the bite area.
What are the symptoms of tick-borne diseases? Most tick-borne diseases start out with flu-like symptoms and may include a rash. If you experience symptoms within 30 days of a bite, contact your doctor and mention that you have been bitten by a tick.
Enjoying the outdoors is an important part of living well in San Diego. The Vector Control Program encourages you to take these few simple steps to ensure that your outdoor experience is fun and safe. Happy Trails!