With the warm weather we’ve been enjoying also comes bugs. Ticks, mosquitos, gnats, flies, ants — these pests range from being slightly annoying to incredibly dangerous.
Tyler and I have been putting up new fencing around one of our pastures this spring, and as we work in the growing grass, I know it won’t be long before we have to get serious about watching for ticks, spraying for mosquitos and trying to avoid getting bit while we tackle this job.
Ranchers spend so much time outside, and in addition to worrying about sunburns and long-lasting sun damage, the dangers of bites from mosquitos and ticks can have serious implications on our health.
According to Megan Brooks for Medscape, “Over the last 13 years, illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites have tripled in the United States and nine new vector-borne human diseases were discovered or introduced, according to a report released May 1, 2018 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
Diseases that span the world are now impacting Americans. Zika, West Nile, Lyme and chikungunya can be contracted from infected mosquitos, ticks or fleas and can make people violently ill.
READ: Tricky ticks
The Medscape article reveals, “CDC scientists analyzed trends in the occurrence of 16 nationally reportable vector-borne diseases during 2004–2016 using data reported to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.
“During the study period, a total of 642,602 cases of vector-borne illness were reported, although cases are likely to be substantially underreported, the authors note. The total number of reported vector-borne disease cases was three times higher in 2016 (n = 96,075) than in 2004 (n = 27,388).
“The number of reported cases of tick-borne disease more than doubled during the study period, from 22,527 in 2004 to 48,610 in 2016. Tick-borne diseases made up 77% of all vector-borne disease case reports. Lyme disease accounted for 82% of all tick-borne cases, but cases of spotted fever rickettsioses, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis/ehrlichiosis also increased.
“Reported cases of mosquito-borne disease jumped from 4,858 in 2004 to 47,461 in 2016. The most common mosquito-borne viruses were West Nile, dengue, and Zika. While rare, plague was the most common disease resulting from the bite of an infected flea.”
So what can we do to avoid contracting one of these serious illnesses from these common pests found on the ranch? We’ve got to be proactive.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) recommends these tips for avoiding ticks and mosquitos including:
1. Walk in the middle of trails. Avoid tall grass, brush and leaf litter.
2. Use EPA-registered repellents labelled for use against ticks on skin. Always follow the label instructions. EPA-registered repellents are safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
3. Treat clothing and gear such as pants, boots, socks and tents with a product containing permethrin, or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear. Do not apply permethrin directly to skin.
4. Wear long pants, long sleeves and long socks. Tuck pant legs into socks.
5. Wear light colors to make it easier to see ticks.
READ: Ticks in Texas
After spending time outside, be sure to check kids, pets and yourself for ticks. If a tick has attached to the body, ODH recommends these tips to safely remove them:
1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
2. Pull it away from your skin with steady, even pressure.
3. Do not twist or jerk the tick which can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth parts easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
4. Do not use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish or any other “folk” remedies to remove a tick as these methods do not work.
5. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
6. Wash your hands and the bite area with soap and water.
Now is a great time to stock up on sunscreen and bug repellent, and don’t just buy it and forget it. Make a habit of using both every day!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.