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“ Everything You Wanted to Know About Ticks ”

Story by , written 22 years ago 1185 views68 votes
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My wife pulled 27 deer tick nymphs off of my legs after a workparty. They were extremely difficult to find in all that hair. They were all implanted.
Ticks do not intentionally ’implant’; their mouthparts which are barbed are the only part that inserted. However, localised swelling often occurs which gives the impression of implanting.

Now for the horror story of the month. It is embarrasing, but I feel compelled to tell it for the benefit of fellow list members. When I was a PA student (around ’89 or so), one day while reading, I felt a little itch, near the dorsal vein on my, ahem, member.
Not an uncommon location for ticks to attached to. Once on the body they may walk around for several hours before attaching, often the site will be around the line of the underwear or softer parts of the body. In adult human males, ticks often attach to the foreskin of the penis, and I have pulled several off others scrotum. Children seem to get more in the hair, which can be horrendously difficult to spot.
To avoid ticks always make sure you do a complete search of yourself after going to a tick infested area. Stop on your ride now and again and give your legs the once over. Always use repellents containing DEET and apply at a minimum every two hours when exercising. Wear light coloured clothing, ticks can be spotted more easily. Cloths can be washed in a pyrethroid solution. The best solution to tick prevention is avoiding the areas where they are. If you can, ride on the wider tracks and avoid brushing the vegetation along the edges. Remeber that animals often run along the edges of clearings and so these tend to be hot tick spots.

When we got back to the camper I found a tick, then another, then another. The final count was 15 ticks. Luckily not a one had burrowed in yet. Amazingly Chris only had 1 tick.
This is not uncommon, after collecting trips I would regularly have this number on me. My record is around 120+. I will explain the science behind this. Adult ticks will lay around 2000 eggs, when the eggs hatch, the larvae will climb the nearest piece of vegetation and wait for some unsuspecting host to come by. Thus if you happen to brush that piece of vegetation, picking up tens to hundreds of ticks will occur. However, someone who maybe with you may not brush past the same spot and thus pick up no ticks. Picking up ticks is largely random.
I have also been to areas where nymphs and adults are in huge numbers. These locations tend to be areas with a very high native animal load (ticks can only survive were there is a blood source). One extreme example of this is in an Emu enclosure just north of Sydney. A ten second roll on the ground (if you were stupid enough) would have easily netted several thousand larvae, and hundreds of nymphs and adults.

Remove with forceps (tweezers), grabbing it only tight enough to get a grip. Twisting is unnecessary and may infact twist the head off and leave it in you!
Actually twisting is of an advantage for adult ticks, particularly large species such as our local paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus), which needs a crow bar to remove. For small ticks they can be lifted off quite easily with fine forceps. Now to the big but. Touching a tick can cause it to disgorge its stomach contents. Likewise this will also occur with irritants such as nail polish remover, kerosene, petrol (you know all those old time remedies for tick removal). In Australia where thousands of pets die every year from tick paralysis, the process of removal of the tick from an animal in late stage paralysis is often fatal to the animal for the reasons above. It is best to kill the tick before removal. This can be done by applying a small dab of DEET to the tick. In the case of animals, the tick is best left on and will eventually come off. With humans the tick can be removed later with fine tipped forceps.
Any parts left behind need to be debrided (removed). Prep with alcohol or betadine and dig out the parts with a razor or needle cleaned with alcohol.
Ahhh! NO. NO. NO. They do not have to be removed, this is totally unnecessary and is bound to give you more discomfort than is scientifically needed (god, it almost as bad as the medico who told me he used punch biopsies to remove ticks). The mouth parts do not contain the pathogen, it is the gut or salivary glands which are located well into the body. Without the body, the pathogen can not get into the host. Also, considering the shape of the mouthparts and their size, I would find it highly unlikely that someone would successfully remove them. Leave ’em in and they will slough off with the skin. On very rare occassions a secondary bacterial infection may occur at the tick bite site, so wash the site with a disinfectant if you must (I never bother myself and I have removed thousands of ticks from my personage withour adverse effects).

If Trev were not from Africa, I would suspect he is refering to Colorado Tick Fever .... a different entity from Lyme. CTF has a virus vector and Lymes has a bacterial spirochete. CTF is self limiting. But suspect thatTrev is refering to a different entity entirely, endemic to his locale. Sorry, I don’t know much about non-U.S. and 3rd world infectious diseases.
I will attempt to list some of the tick diseases around the world. In the US, Lyme disease is the big issue with around 10,000 new cases every year. Most cases occur in the northeast. Also CTF as mentioned above, Rocky Mounted Spotted Fever (which had a fatality rate of around 30% before the advent of antibiotics), relapsing fever, Tularemia, Erlichiosis and Babesiois. In Europe and Asia, Lyme disease, Tick borne Encephalitis, relapsing fever, Crimean-Congo HF, Kyansur Forest, Boutonneuse Fever, Siberian Tick Typhus. In Africa, relapsing fever, Boutonneuse Fever. In Australia (no Lyme Disease); Australian tick typhus. In addition, some tick species are responsible for fatal paralysis and may cause allergic reactions. Plus there are whole swag of veterinary diseases.

A certain low (the exact number excapes me) percentage (2-5?)% of Lone Star Ticks (in a single study) were found to carry B. burgdorferi, the infectious etiology of Lymes.
Amblyomma americanum (the Lone Star Tick) in several studies has been shown to be incompetent for B.b (ie. they can not transmit the disease), however recent research suggests that they carry a different type of spirochaete bacteria. Anyway, these ticks do not occur in South Africa.


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