With regards to ticks, the summer of 2017 will be a summer of concern. In Connecticut, all reports are that the number of ticks found in the woods and in the fields are up this year, and that the proportion of ticks that are infested with the various human disease organisms that ticks carry is also up. (Several news stories covering this can be found on the CAES “In the News” page).
Which makes ticks a matter of particular concern for all those who work around trees. Now is a good time for anyone associated with tree care to go through a basic review of ticks. This review should cover:
- what ticks are,
- why we should be wary of ticks, and
- what to do to protect yourself.
What Ticks Are: the definitive summary of all things related to ticks in Connecticut is the Tick Management Handbook, prepared by Dr. Kirby Stafford at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and published in 2004. In Connecticut, the three major tick species that are of concern from a public health perspective are the American Dog Tick, the Deer Tick (aka the Black Legged Tick) and the Lone Star Tick. The third is primarily of concern nearer to Long Island Sound.
This free publication details the life cycle of these arthropods, the diseases they carry and management approaches that can be taken. It is worth downloading a copy to have for reference.
Why We Should be Wary of Them: A very recent publication by Conn-OSHA does a good job of summarizing the potential problems that can come from exposure to ticks. This publication, Occupational Tick-Borne Disease Prevention and Workplace Job Hazard Assessment for Personal Protective Equipment, also outlines the approach that Conn-OSHA is proposing with regards to the responsibility that employers should accept in connection with employee awareness and PPE use in connection with ticks. Conn-OSHA’s rule making applies primarily to state and municipal employees, but that doesn’t mean that their recommendations are not good ones for people to consider in private as well as public tree care.
What to Do to Protect Yourself from the Problems that Ticks Bring: Most of the recommendations about protecting yourself with regards to ticks come down to basic common sense – know where ticks are apt to be, immediately remove ticks when you find them on yourself, wear light colored clothing to help in this regards and use insect repellents as appropriate. Also, check your clothing and field items for ticks so you don’t bring ticks home with you, shower after being out in the field and look yourself over carefully for any attached ticks. Remove any attached ticks promptly.
This advice is well-summarized in a very helpful, straight-forward manner by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC’s webpage on ticks includes links to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) web page on Tick-Borne Diseases. This page includes additional information for people who apt to be exposed to ticks on the job. This page includes a link to the NIOSH Fast Fact card on protecting yourself from ticks and mosquitoes. These Fast Fact cards can be downloaded for printing or ordered, so the employers can use them to assist in educating employees.
Further Note: The CT Agricultural Experiment Station also manages a “tick testing laboratory” where members of the public may bring ticks to for identification and testing as to whether they are carrying specific tick-borne diseases.