Earth Connection is a school of primitive skills and wilderness survival located in Northern Virginia and North Carolina (Raleigh/Durham area) that has been in existence for over a decade. Our hands-on classes are reasonably priced because we don't believe in big price tags for primitive skills. That's just not natural!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

2007 Lyme Disease Risk

First in our Risk Management Series is Lyme Disease.

The 2006-7 northern Virginia winter was very mild. The lack of a long freeze to kill off a healthy percentage of insects over-wintering in the leaf litter, including ticks, will definitely increase the number of biting insects this year. Since we are talking about Lyme disease, what that means for our 2007 classes is the increased risk of suffering from tick infestations and a risk of infection by the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Although the risk of being infected by the bacterium carried by deer ticks that causes Lyme disease is low for the area surrounding Earth Connection, there is still a risk.

Facts: The Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, harbors in mice, squirrels and other small mammals. It is transmitted through the bites of specific species of ticks between themselves and to to humans. In the northeastern and northcentral United States, the blacklegged (deer) tick (Ixodes scapularis) is known to transmit Lyme disease. Other tick species are not known to transmit Borrelia burgdorferi.

Blacklegged (deer) ticks live for two years and have three feeding stages: larvae, nymph, and adult. When a young tick feeds on an infected animal, the tick takes the bacterium into its body along with the blood meal. The bacterium then lives in the gut of the tick. If the tick feeds again, it can transmit the bacterium to its new host. Usually the new host is another small rodent, but sometimes the new host is you or me.

Most cases of human illness occur in the late spring and summer when the tiny nymphs are most active and human outdoor activity is greatest. Although adult ticks often feed on deer, these animals do not become infected. Deer are nevertheless important in transporting ticks and maintaining tick populations.

Any tick-borne illness may be prevented by avoiding tick habitat (dense woods and brushy areas), using insect repellents containing DEET or permethrin, wearing long pants and socks, and performing tick checks every 12 hours and promptly removing ticks after outdoor activity. Persons should monitor their health closely after any tick bite, and should consult their physician if they experience a rash, fever, headache, joint or muscle pains, or swollen lymph nodes within 30 days of a tick bite. Failure to medically counter the bacterium can result in debilitating health issues.

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