Health Department Warns of Tick Menace

More than a year into a global pandemic, the town Health Department wants to make sure residents remember the little things.

Like ticks.

“Tick season is upon us and with the nice weather you may be spending more time in potential tick environments,” the department said in a statement this week. “Spending more time at home is leading residents in search of fresh spring air and outdoor activities.”

Everyone should be aware that ticks do not fly or jump, the announcement said; they attach to animals or people with whom they come into direct contact. They transmit disease to humans and pets, and “the illnesses can be devastating,” said Board of Health member Bea Brunkhorst at the Board’s virtual meeting Monday.

Black-legged ticks (sometimes called deer ticks) are responsible for spreading Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, borrelia miyamotoi, and Powassan virus.

“Precautions against tick bites should be taken anytime you enter a potential tick environment, including your yard, in a grassy area, wooded area, or a hiking/walking trail,” the health officials said. The department is already receiving reports from residents who have found deer tick nymphs on their bodies after Bedford trail walks.

“You don’t have to be walking in the woods to be bitten by a tick; it can happen around your own home or while out walking,” the statement said. “Spring is a popular time for spring clean-up activities in many yards; ticks tend to be hiding under leaf litter that may have been created, resulting in the ideal environment for a tick.”

The Health Department website includes detailed steps on protecting a backyard from ticks, as well as how to properly remove ticks and how to protect yourself from their bites.

Ticks are not monolithic. There are varieties, as detailed by the Health Department:

Deer ticks are Bedford’s most common tick. They tend to live “where grassy yards or fields border wooded areas, ornamental plantings, and gardens, or anywhere it is shaded and there are leaves,” the announcement said. They range in size from a poppy seed (nymphs) to a sesame seed (adults).

Dog ticks are responsible for spreading Rocky Mountain spotted fever and certain types of tularemia. The highest risk of being bitten by a dog tick occurs during the spring and summer seasons. Adult dog ticks are about the size of a watermelon seed.

Lone star ticks are not a significant source of human illness in Massachusetts at this time. They can spread tularemia, ehrlichiosis, and rash illness. Lone star tick saliva can be irritating but redness and discomfort at a bite site does not necessarily indicate infection. Exposure to this saliva has been shown to cause an allergy to red meat.

The Health Board on Monday talked about plans to install tick barriers to provide ground-level separation between playing fields and wooded areas. Health and Human Services Director Heidi Porter said these steps are in the fiscal 2022 capital plan, focusing on the areas behind John Glenn Middle School. Member Maureen Richichi said the Davis School play areas also are contiguous to woods.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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