10/27/06 October begins the season in California most likely to bring out bloodthirsty ticks, a public health official warns, including those capable of transmitting Lyme disease.

“Although most people associate ticks with summertime outdoor activities, adult western black-legged ticks are more likely to be encountered in late fall and winter,’ Mark Horton, California’s top public health officer, said this week. “With California’s temperate climate, adult ticks are abundant throughout the cooler months between late October and March.’

Ticks are slow, flightless arachnids that often cling to tall grass or to low bushes in naturally vegetated areas.

While many species of ticks can be found, the carrier species for Lyme disease is the western black-legged tick, which is mostly reddish brown in color and about the size of the tip of a match stick. It can be found in most California counties but primarily in humid northwestern coastal areas and the western slopes of the northern Sierra Nevada, health officials said.

Typically an animal or human brushes past natural vegetation and a waiting tick comes aboard for a meal.

Ticks dig their mouthparts inside their host and stay there until fully engorged with blood, which can take days, health officials said. By then Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and babesiosis can be transmitted.

The best ways to avoid ticks are avoiding the edges of trails, grassy areas and brush. It is easier to notice a tick on light-colored clothing and health officials advise periodically inspecting yourself and others, especially in the scalp and hairline areas.

Long pants and shirts make it harder for ticks to get beneath clothing, particularly if tucked in, and applied repellents containing DEET are considered helpful.

A tick bite can appear like a mosquito bite but more often has a “bull’s eye’ of inflamed tissue or redness surrounding the bite in the first 24 hours after the bite. Symptoms of Lyme’s disease include a spreading rash accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever and body aches.

If you find a tick attached to yourself or someone, use tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin, and steadily pull up. Wash your hands and apply some antiseptic to the spot of the bite. Consult a doctor if symptoms develop.

Source: Bay City Newswire