With the warm weather, we spend more time outside, and our chance of becoming host to a tick increases significantly. Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are transmitted to humans by tick bites. In the Fall, we all need to pause and recall the ways in which we can protect our families, pets and property. This is extremely important in Medfield due to the high deer population which is correlated with a high density of ticks since adult ticks feed on deer. According to Mass Wildlife, a healthy deer population should be 6-8 deer per square mile. Medfield has a deer population of at least 24-26 deer per square mile and is located in one of the areas with the highest incidences of Lyme disease in the state.
Lyme disease can happen at any time of the year in Massachusetts. While the young blacklegged (or deer) ticks, known as the nymphs, are the most active between the months of May and July, adult deer ticks are most active during the fall, and when winter temperatures are above freezing. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria and is spread by infected ticks. It is believed that the tick must be attached for at least 24 hours for the bacteria to spread to the human.
The following steps are recommended by the Medfield Lyme Disease Study Committee to help protect you and your family from ticks. More information can be found on the Medfield Lyme Disease Study Committee website: http://www.town.medfield.net/index.cfm/page/Lyme-Disease-Study-Committee/pid/21480
If at all possible, use repellents according to the instructions on the Lyme disease Fact Sheet issued by the MA. Dept. of Public Health. It is also helpful to use clothing covered with permethrin. When outside wear long pants, light in color, tucked into socks and a long sleeve shirt to reduce skin exposure. Pet owners should speak to their veterinarian about protecting their pets from ticks.
Perform a daily tick check on yourself and remind your children to do the same. Deer ticks are so small that this may involve feeling your skin for any new bumps. Your pets will also need regular tick checks, especially if they have been outdoors even if it was not in the woods.
Methods to protect your property from ticks include creating a three-foot wide wood chip, mulch or gravel barrier where your lawn meets the woods. Ticks are less likely to survive crossing the barrier into the lawn because they are prone to drying out. Remove leaf letter and brush from around your home, and keep your grass cut short. Prune low lying bushes and keep the plants around stone walls cut short. Keep woodpiles and bird feeders off the ground and away from your home. Professional spraying against ticks is also an effective method to reduce tick populations.