Rocky Mountain Wood tick not associated with Lyme disease
It’s hiking season, and while many are trying to get outside and enjoy the good weather, there is one concern: ticks.
Rob Higgins, an associate professor of biology at Thompson Rivers University, said the relatively mild winter could lead to an increase in ticks.
Yet according to HIggins, the type of tick most commonly found in the Kamloops region is the Rocky Mountain Wood tick and it is not known to be associated with Lyme disease, an inflammatory infection spread to humans through tick bites.
Higgins said the tick that may carry Lyme disease is the Western Blacklegged tick.
“It’s a smaller tick, and over the last few years of people sending me specimens for identification I’m yet to receive one,” he said. “It is here but it’s not particularly abundant.”
Higgins said the Rocky Mountain wood ticks can, however, cause tick paralysis, which can effectively lead animals to experience the temporary paralysis of their lower extremities.
Tick paralysis most often affects dogs and livestock, as humans are better at finding and removing ticks before paralysis sets in.
“We know that the tick is releasing something from a salivary gland that’s causing the paralysis,” said Higgins.
“The tick normally needs to be attached more than two days before there’s any signs of paralysis developing.”
Luckily, tick paralysis is reversible once the source of the paralysis (the ticks) are located.
“What’s quite remarkable about this condition is that once the tick is removed, the dog or the person usually is back to normal within an hour,” he said.
The Rocky Mountain wood tick is around once the snow melts and is typically around until early June, though on occasion can be found later.
For those who are uninitiated, ticks live in tall grass and wooded areas.
The insects burrow part way into the skin, bite, draw blood and then drop off.
When ticks are full of blood they are usually blue-grey in colour. These are known as an “engorged tick.”
Experts advise people to check for ticks on children and pets if they have been out in an area where ticks can live.
The BC Centre for Disease Control also has a list of helpful advice for people looking to avoid having a tick latch onto them in the first place:
— Walk on cleared trails wherever possible when walking in tall grass or woods.
— Wear light coloured clothing, tuck your top into your pants, and tuck your pants into your boots or socks.
— Use an insect repellent containing DEET on your clothes and on all uncovered skin. Reapply it as directed on the container.
— Check clothing and scalp when leaving an area where ticks may live. Check in folds of skin.
— Have someone help you check young children.
— Regularly check household pets which go into tall grass and wooded areas.