Expert urges prevention against ticks at Mattapoisett Library
Ticks are a common problem in the tri-town. In a room full of people at Mattapoisett Library on Saturday, at least half said they had contracted Lyme disease from a tick.
For Blake Dinius, a Plymouth County entomologist, the most important thing is prevention. Dinius spoke at the library about ticks and how to protect yourself, your yard and your pets from them.
Statistically, Plymouth County has one of the highest numbers of incidence of Lyme disease in the state.
“About 10 percent of Plymouth County is getting Lyme every year,” Dinius said. “That’s incredible.”
Many people, including Dinius, have noticed the tick population getting worse.
“We don’t really know why,” he said. “Deer alone are not the culprits…mice alone are not the culprits…the increase is complex and is not likely to be solved anytime soon.”
Ticks feed on 125 different animals, and though they only feed three times in their lives, they spread disease quickly.
Ticks feed at each stage in their life – once as larva, once as a nymph and once as an adult. As a larva, ticks feed on small animals like mice. It is here that they pick up diseases, which they then spread to their next host as a nymph. Oftentimes, humans or their pets are the targets for nymphs to feed.
To prevent being the victim of a tick bite, Dinius stressed the importance of a three-pronged approach.
“Protect yourself, protect your yard, protect your pets,” he said.
Dinius suggests using permethrin on your clothing when heading out for a hike or to camp. Permethrin is a safe repellent to ticks, and will last on your clothing through several washes. However, it is toxic to cats while it is still wet, so he advises keeping them in a separate room until the clothes are dry. Using bug spray like Off! on exposed skin will also help prevent ticks, Dinius said.
Even when using permethrin and bug spray, ticks can still find their way onto skin. To prevent the spread of disease, Dinius urges doing tick checks when spending time outdoors.
“Frequent checks are key,” he said.
It’s also important to keep your yard groomed by removing leaf piles and keeping grass and shrubs trimmed. Doing this will reduce the habitats available for ticks to live in.
“Places that provide shade and trap moisture are good for ticks,” he said. “They might live in tall grass, the edge of yards, gardens…”
The final step in preventing tick bites is protecting pets. Cats and dogs make good hosts for ticks and can end up bringing them into the house.
Dinius suggests using tick collars for animals, and getting dogs vaccinated for Lyme. Tick checks on animals are also helpful in preventing disease.
“Prevention is the easiest way,” Dinius said. “It works.”