Tick-Borne Disease Threat Growing

Spring is just around the corner, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is encouraging people to plan now to protect themselves and their families against potentially serious tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease and the rare but dangerous Deer Tick Virus (DTV), which has been found in ticks at high levels for the first time in multiple locations around the state.

The Deer Tick Virus, which is a type of Powassan virus, is rare in the United States, but positive cases have increased in recent years. It is spread to people primarily by bites from infected ticks and does not spread person-to-person through coughing, sneezing or touching. There are no vaccines to prevent or medicines to treat Powassan viruses, so prevention is the best way to reduce risk of infection and disease.

Areas recently discovered to have a high presence of Deer Tick Virus include: Fisherman’s Paradise public fishing area on Spring Creek in Centre County; Iroquois Trail near Tunkhannock in Wyoming County; and Lawrence Township Recreational Park in Clearfield County.

Recommended precautions

• Apply tick repellents containing permethrin to clothing, and EPA-registered insect repellents such as DEET to exposed skin before heading outdoors. Reapply as needed according to product label instructions.
• Wear light-colored outer clothing and tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks.
• Walk in the center of trails and avoid wooded and brushy areas with low-growing vegetation and tall grasses that may harbor ticks.
• After returning home, remove all clothing, take a shower and place clothing into the dryer on high heat to kill any lingering ticks. Examine gear such as backpacks for ticks.
• Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand or full-length mirror, including hidden areas such as the scalp, ears, armpits, belly button and between the legs.
• Check over any pets exposed to likely tick habitats each time they return indoors.
• If a tick is found attached to your skin, use tweezers to remove it carefully, including the head. Monitor for symptoms and contact your doctor with any questions.

Free tick testing

Free tick testing is available at the PA Tick Lab at East Stroudsburg University. Learn more here