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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ticks in Three Local Parks Test Positive for Lyme Disease

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Officials from Los Angeles county and Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are advising visitors and area residents that ticks from Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills recently tested positive for Lyme disease. Three separate pools of western black-legged ticks (Ixodes pacificus) found along the Coyote Trail were found to be positive.
“This is a good reminder for visitors to stick to the trail and avoid the vegetated areas where ticks like to hang out,” said Evan Jones, SMMNRA chief ranger.
“Though Lyme disease can be very serious, simply following a few basic steps can greatly minimize exposure.”
Jones advises the public to check clothing and exposed skin. Wearing light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants is also recommended.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium known as a a spirochete that is carried by deer ticks.
An infected tick can transmit the spirochete to the humans and animals it bites. Untreated, the bacterium travels through the bloodstream.
According to the NPS press release, Lyme disease can begin as a mild flu-like illness and develop into severe chronic health problems over time.
“If identified in the early stages, it can be successfu ly treated with antibiotics, but the potential for long-term complications increases if the disease progresses untreated.”
Paramount Ranch was one of three Santa Monica Mountains park sites that came back positive for Lyme disease in tests conducted by Los Angeles County West Vector and Vector-Borne Disease Control District.
The other two locations were Tapia Park and Malibu Creek State Park, both located within a short distance of one another.
Robert Saviskas, executive director of the L.A. county agency responsible for conducting the tests, said this was the first year his agency tested for Lyme disease at Paramount Ranch, among approximately 12 sites tested within the Santa Monica Mountains.
The first tick known to carry Lyme disease was found in the mountains in 1998.
“We're finding that about 1 or 2 percent of western black-legged ticks in the area carry the Lyme disease bacteria, so it’s important for us to identify where the problem is occurring,” said Saviskas. “This particular tick is most active from late November through May.”
Malibu residents should also be aware of the potential for the black-legged tick to carry the disease.  Removing the tick within 24 hours can greatly reduce the risk of disease transmission, according to Vector Control.
The American Lyme Disease Foundation makes the following recommendations: “Wear enclosed shoes and light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily; scan clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors; stay on cleared, well-traveled trails; use insect repellent containing DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide) on skin or clothes if you intend to go off-trail or into overgrown areas; avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls (havens for ticks and their hosts); keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening; and do a final, full-body tick-check at the end of the day.”
Household pets and livestock can also be at risk for lyme disease, According to Vector Control, “cats may show lameness, fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, eye damage, unusual breathing, or heart involvement.”
Many cats do not show noticeable symptoms, despite being infected.
“Infected dogs may be lethargic, have a poor/loss of appetite, or a fever Dogs may also experience lameness shifting from one joint to another, fatigue, kidney damage or failure, heart disorders, or neurologic involvement (e.g. aggression, confusion, overeating, seizures). Dogs can be infected with the Lyme bacterium but not exhibit any noticeable symptoms.”
Vector Control recommends applying tick-control chemicals, like the product Frontline to animals in order to protect them from disease spreading ticks.
All attached ticks should be removed “properly and promptly” to reduce the chance of transmission of the LD bacterium. 
Vector Control recommends the following technique: “Place fine point tweezers around the tick’s mouthparts (the place where the tick is attached) and gently pull upwards until the tick detaches. Do not use your bare fingers.
“Disinfect the bite site and tweezers after removal. Wash your hands. Place the tick, along with several blades of grass, into a small container (e.g. a clean screw-cap pill bottle or a zip-lock bag) for later examination.
“Call your veterinarian to determine if there is a local place where the tick can be tested. Label the container with: the date, name of pet, type of animal, owner’s name, address and phone number.
“Have your animal(s) examined as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms of disease; the sooner a disease is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Vaccines are available for dogs.”
More information is available at www.lawestvector.org, http://www.aldf.com, or nps.gov/samo

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