A species of tick that is usually found in southern states may be calling Wisconsin home now, and researchers with the University of Wisconsin in Madison say the lone star tick been found as far north as St. Croix County.
The Hudson Star Observer reported that a dozen of the lighter-brown bugs have been found in Dane County so far this summer, but smaller numbers have also been spotted in the following counties:
- St. Croix
REPORT A SPECIMEN
The University of Wisconsin is seeking to receive specimens collected in Wisconsin, especially when their approximate location can be verified. Anyone who believes they may have found a lone star tick is asked to contact professor Susan Paskewitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lone-star tick is primarily found in the southeastern and eastern United States; however, the approximate distribution map created in September 2010 indicated they are present in many states that neighbor Wisconsin and Minnesota, including Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.
Last summer, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources contacted Phil Pelliteri, an extension entomologist at the University of Wisconsin, to see how the ticks had gotten to the state. Pelliteri said he suspects birds may be bringing them in from nearby states, but he doubted breeding populations existed at the time.
In the Hudson Star Observer report, entomology professor Susan Paskewitz said the confirmed sightings now indicate that a lot more ticks have entered Wisconsin.
According the CDC, the population of lone star ticks has increased over the past 20-30 years, and large populations have been found as far north as Maine. White-tail deer are a major host for lone star ticks, but larvae and nymphs also feed on birds as well.
DO THEY CARRY DISEASES?
Most tick bites come with a risk of illness, and the lone star tick is no exception; however, the CDC says patients may confuse the symptoms of a lone star tick bite with Lyme disease when it is not.
There is no evidence to suggest lone star ticks carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. In fact, their saliva has been shown to kill it; however, patients bitten by lone star ticks sometimes develop a circular rash similar to the one seen in Lyme disease patients.
That condition has been named southern tick-associated rash illness, or STARI, and it may be accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Muscle pains
STARI symptoms tend to set within 6 days of a tick bite, and the circular rashes tend to be smaller than those seen in Lyme disease patients. Although the exact cause of STARI is not yet known, patients tend to recover quickly after taking oral antibiotics.
Lone star ticks are also known to carry Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii, and the CDC says white tail deer appear to be a reservoir providing that infection to the pests. In fact, the lone star tick is thought to be the primary distributor of Ehrlichiosis to humans.
Ehrlichiosis symptoms include fatigue, fever, headache and muscle aches in both animals and humans. Symptoms tend to emerge within one to two weeks of a bite from an infected tick, and specialized laboratory tests can identify it. Doxycycline antibiotics are the first line of treatment for both adults and children.
PREVENT TICK BITES
There are several ways to prevent tick-borne illnesses, from avoiding wooded and bushy areas to using products to repel the pests.
Insect repellents with a 20 percent DEET concentration or higher should repel ticks for several hours, and permethrin can be used on clothing, footwear and outdoor gear to keep ticks away as well. Some pre-treated clothing will retain its protective properties for up to 70 washes.
It is also important to remain vigilant in areas where ticks are found by bathing or showering within a few hours of coming indoors to locate and wash away any ticks. Examining gear and pets is also recommended, since ticks can hitch a ride into a home and find a host later.
Tumbling clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour will also kill any remaining ticks or larvae.
Residents can also reduce their risk of picking up a tick near their home by taking the following steps in their yards:
- Remove leaf litter
- Clear tall grasses and brush
- Place a 3-foot barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas
- Mow frequently
- Stack wood neatly in a dry area
- Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from yard edges and trees
- Use fences to keep deer, raccoons and other wildlife from entering
- Remove unnecessary objects that may give ticks a place to hide
PROTECT PETS TOO
Tick bites on pets can be a bit tougher to spot, and symptoms may not appear for 7-21 days longer after a tick bite, so owners of pets that spend time outdoors are urged to check their animals daily.
Changes in appetite tend to be the first sign of illness, and veterinarians can conduct tick checks and provide details on preventative products for pets. Repellents and acaricides, products that kill ticks, are commonly available for dogs. Some options include:
Cats are especially sensitive to chemicals, however, so it's important to consult a veterinarian before using a repellant.