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More ticks test positive for tularemia


Last updated 3/8/2018 at 7:36pm

SAN DIEGO – San Diego County Vector Control officials said that several more batches of ticks trapped along Lopez Canyon Trail in Sorrento Valley have tested positive for tularemia, a potentially dangerous bacterial disease also known as “rabbit fever.”

County officials are reminding people again to protect themselves and their pets from ticks – which can transmit tularemia and other diseases when they bite people – whenever they are hiking, bicycling or walking in grassy backcountry areas, on trails or in the wild.

Vector Control officials said that several batches of ticks trapped in routine monitoring in the area of Lopez Canyon Trail had tested positive for the disease. Because they are small, ticks are “batched” together into larger groups to conduct testing.

County officials said they posted signs warning people to protect themselves from ticks last week and have posted additional signs in the wake of the new find. Officials said County trappers will also expand tick trapping in the area. Officials said the best ways for people to protect themselves against being bitten by ticks include wearing insect repellent and proper clothing and using insect control products that kill fleas and ticks on their pets.

Vector Control officials said they have been finding increased numbers of ticks this year around the county, although the ones collected in Sorrento Valley were the only ones that have tested positive for any disease.

The County’s Vector Control Program monitors the population of vectors – animals like ticks, fleas, rodents and mosquitoes – that can transmit diseases to people.

Ticks are tiny, eight-legged parasites related to spiders. They crawl out on leaves and vegetation and extend their hooked front legs to latch onto passing animals and people, then bite and feed on blood. Even though tick diseases are rare in San Diego County, they have also been known to carry other diseases including Lyme disease and spotted fever illnesses.

Tularemia can be successfully treated with antibiotics but can be dangerous and even fatal.

County public health officials said anyone who is bitten by a tick should not panic, but carefully remove it. They said if a person develops a rash or fever within several weeks of being bitten they should see a doctor, tell them about the tick bite, when they were bitten and where they think it happened.

Here are seven easy tips to help protect people and pets from ticks.

First, wear insect repellent. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and one that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or 2-undecanone.

Next, stay on designated pathways when hiking or walking in open space or canyon areas. Choose wide trails and walk in the center. Remember, ticks “quest” for people and pets by crawling on leaves of grass or brush, waiting to latch on to passers-by.

Avoid grass and brush; don’t handle rodents. Try to stay out of grassy or brushy areas and do not handle wild rodents. Yes, squirrels are cute, but they can come with their own menagerie of critters, including ticks and fleas that can carry plague.

Frequently check clothing, body and companions for ticks. Dress for success. Ticks are small. Wear light clothing so they’re easier to spot. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to keep ticks away from skin.

Leave pets at home or keep them leashed. Ticks love pets. Leaving them at home solves the problem, but if that isn’t possible, keep them leashed and on the trail. Treat pets with a tick and flea regimen or use insecticide powders or sprays labeled for tick control.

Also check clothes, gear and pets for ticks upon arrival home. Before heading back inside, double-check clothes, gear and pets for ticks. Ticks can hitchhike into a home on clothes and pets and bite later.

If a tick bites someone or their pet, don’t panic. Just carefully and immediately remove it. Ticks burrow partway into the skin to feed. The CDC recommends removing ticks by grabbing them with tweezers as close to the tick’s head as possible and pulling out steadily and firmly.

For more information about ticks go to the county Department of Environmental Health’s tick webpage, and the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tick webpage.


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