Ticks! Ticks! (10 Common Myths)

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Spring has arrived in the Columbia River Gorge, and as we explore among the unfurling fern fronds and explosion of wildflowers, we will also be keeping a wary eye out for a pair of nemeses who also make the Gorge their home: poison oak and ticks! Sure, there are other natural hazards out there, but poison oak wins the prize for quiet ubiquity while ticks are actually OUT TO GET YOU!

Naturally, a lot of mythology exists on both fronts, and I’ve previously debunked poison oak myths. In this article, I’ll tackle the kitchen remedies and common folklore that abound for ticks. The Centers for Disease Control is my primary source for information on the subject, and their tick resource pages are worth a visit for anyone who spends time in tick country. I’ve also relied on the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) for the best advice on managing ticks on our pets.

The one to watch for: Western Black-Legged Tick (Source: Public Health Image Library)

The one to watch for: Western Black-Legged Tick (Source: Public Health Image Library)

While poison oak can trigger a miserable rash, it’s rarely a serious health risk. Ticks are different. While their bites aren’t usually painful, these tiny members of the arachnid family (they’ve got eight legs – count ‘em!) can also transmit several blood-borne diseases, most notably the bacterium that can cause Lyme disease in humans and animals.

Western Black-Legged Ticks (from left) in nymph stage, adult male and adult female  (Source: California Health Dept.)

Western Black-Legged Ticks (from left) in nymph stage, adult male and adult female (Source: California Health Dept.)

While the potential for Lyme disease exists in just two tick species, all ticks have the potential to carry disease, and should be treated with equal caution. So, with that creepy-crawly introduction, here are ten common tick myths, debunked:

Myth 1: Ticks only occur in the Eastern Gorge

False. While it’s true that ticks are VERY common in oak and pine savannah of the Eastern Gorge, they have been reported throughout the Gorge, though in decreasing numbers as you head west. Based on my own experience, the tick population grows steadily as you head east of Bonneville.

The CAPC forecast for tick exposure in 2013, with hot spots Hood River and Clackamas counties and Southern Oregon (Source: CAPC)

The CAPC forecast for tick exposure in 2013, with hot spots Hood River and Clackamas counties and Southern Oregon (Source: CAPC)

Ticks are found throughout much of Oregon, as it turns out, but generally not in the prolific numbers as we find the Gorge. The CAPC map (above) shows the 2013 tick exposure forecast by Oregon county, with Hood River and Clackamas counties as a expected hot spots in northern Oregon and Jackson and Josephine counties showing higher risk in southern Oregon.

So, while you may have hiked in the “safer” areas of Gorge, it’s always good idea to do a tick check when you get home, no matter where you hiked. But if you’re hiking east of Bonneville, then it’s a good idea to expect ticks and take some precautions.

Myth 2: Ticks die in winter

False. Though tick populations generally decline in winter, in mild winters (such as the past one) ticks in the Gorge can continue to grow and thrive in the outdoors. When the temperature drops below freezing, ticks simply become inactive and burrow into leaf litter, emerging when conditions improve.

Year-round tick country: the Columbia River from the terraced slopes above Rowena Crest

Year-round tick country: the Columbia River from the terraced slopes above Rowena Crest

Tick research in the Northeast suggests a threshold temperature of 38º F and above for ticks to become active, though no research is available for the Pacific Northwest. But it’s safe to assume that you can encounter active ticks year-round in the Gorge in all but the coldest weather.

Myth 3: Ticks should be removed using a lit match

“Just light a match, blow it out, and put the hot tip on the tick to make it angry, and it will back right out!”

“I just used WD40 on a cotton swab to remove a tick from my 3 lb Chihauhau.”

(advice from the internet)

..or… paint thinner, dish soap, kerosene, nail polish remover and Vaseline. All of these folklore solutions have spread far and wide in the age of the internet, along with cult-like followings to defend them!

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The idea that Vaseline or WD-40 will suffocate the tick and nail polish will kill it with toxins or cause it to detach on its own is sketchy, at best. Worse, these folk remedies could cause the tick to disgorge its contents into your bloodstream — exactly what you’re trying to avoid!

Instead, ticks should be gently pulled from the skin with tweezers or a custom tool for removing ticks (more on that later).

Myth 4: If parts of the tick break off when removing it, you have to dig them out to prevent Lyme Disease

Advice on this one varies: some sources recommend removing all parts of the tick to prevent a secondary infection, while others argue that you’ll do yourself more harm trying to dig them from your skin. But if you remove the living tick within 24 hours, you’ve likely removed any risk of infection with a tick-borne disease, even if you didn’t get the entire tick.

The safest bet is to check with your doctor if you find yourself in this situation. Even better, be sure to remove the tick properly, and you will be much less likely to break off any tick parts (again, more on that later).

Myth 5: Ticks can re-grow their bodies if the head is still intact

Headless is dead… even for the mighty tick!

Headless is dead… even for the mighty tick!

False. This bit of folklore probably comes the (admittedly creepy) fact that the abdomen of a tick that has become engorged after several days of being attached to a host can become alarmingly large. Or maybe that some snakes and lizards can re-grow their tail? But a beheaded tick is just that, and can’t survive.

Myth 6: A hot, soapy shower will remove any ticks

Partly true. Ticks can survive a shower – or even a bath — and happily stay attached to your skin, but a shower can wash away ticks that haven’t attached yet. If you’ve done a visual tick check before jumping in the shower, it’s not a bad idea to do another fingertip check with the aid of soap and water, feeling for small bumps along the skin.

A fingertip check is especially helpful in finding small, immature ticks in the nymph stage, when they are about the size of the head of a pin. They often go unnoticed until fully engorged, and are therefore responsible for nearly all of human Lyme disease cases, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation.

Myth 7: Ticks in Oregon don’t carry Lyme disease

Partly true. While not common in Oregon (yet), Lyme disease is here, with Oregon falling in the “moderate” range for disease risk in 2013, according to the CAPC (see map, below). However, in the Western states, Lyme disease is only transmitted through the Western Black-Legged Tick, just one of several tick species found here.

The 2013 Lyme Disease forecast by the Companion Animal Parasite Council puts Northwest Oregon in the moderate risk range (Source: CAPC)

The 2013 Lyme Disease forecast by the Companion Animal Parasite Council puts Northwest Oregon in the moderate risk range (Source: CAPC)

Though small, Oregon’s Lyme-carrying ticks are noticeably larger than the only other species known to the disease (found in eastern states), so they are easier to spot and remove. Small comfort, to be sure, but it does make coping with ticks a bit less troublesome in this part of the country.

A caveat to that size difference is that our Lyme-carrying ticks in the immature phase — known as a “nymph” are still very small, so warrant extra care during the spring and early summer and nymphs are most common. Nymphs spend most of their time on the ground, and generally feed on small animals as a result, but it’s still a good idea to look closely for nymphs when you check for ticks.

Myth 8: Only people can get Lyme disease

False. Lyme disease was first identified as a tick-borne illness for humans in 1978, and the actual cause (a bacterium) of the illness wasn’t discovered until 1981. By 1984, Lyme disease had been discovered in dogs, and soon after, in other domestic animals, including horses and cats.

In the Northeast, dogs with Lyme disease have become commonplace, to the point that some states have stopped tracking the infectious because of the flood of reports to veterinary clinics.

Oh, the injustice! The sleepy villages of Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut have the unfortunate distinction of having a tick-borne disease named for them..!

Oh, the injustice! The sleepy villages of Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut have the unfortunate distinction of having a tick-borne disease named for them..!

The test for Lyme disease in dogs takes just a few minutes, and dogs testing positive are generally treated with a 30-day regiment of antibiotics. For most dogs, visible symptoms of the disease are the same as for humans: swollen joints, lethargy, and in a small percentage, kidney failure. Veterinary clinics in the Northeast are now offering a Lyme disease vaccination for dogs in response to the increased rate of infection.

Myth 9: Lyme disease is always marked by a bullseye rash

False. While Lyme disease in humans typically causes a red rash to expand from the site of the tick bite, creating a “bullseye”, this distinctive rash only occurs in 70-80 percent of cases, according to CDC.

The classic Lyme disease bullseye (Wikimedia)

The classic Lyme disease bullseye (Wikimedia)

Usually, a tick must remain attached for a minimum of 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease, so if you remove a tick promptly, it’s soon enough to avoid an infection risk. If you’re not sure, or know that a tick was been embedded for more than 24 (even without the bullseye rash), it’s probably a good idea to check with a doctor about starting antibiotics as a precaution.

Myth 10: Every tick bite carries the possibility of Lyme disease

False. Most tick species do not carry Lyme disease. Only ticks in the genus Ixodes carry the bacteria B. burgdorferi which causes the disease. This includes the Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the Northeastern states and the Western Black-Legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) in the West.

In Oregon, the adult Black-Legged tick measures about two-thirds the size of the more common Wood (or “dog”) tick (Dermacentor variabilis), which frequent similar habitat. However, while the Wood tick doesn’t transmit the Lyme bacteria, it does carry other diseases (including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), so the same care in managing ticks applies, no matter the species.

Black-Legged tick (left) compared to common Wood tick (right)

Black-Legged tick (left) compared to common Wood tick (right)

The risk of Lyme infection from a tick bite is estimated at 1-3 percent, so very low — but still cause for caution. Why? Because left untreated, Lyme disease symptoms may progressively affect joint, heart and central nervous system health. In most cases, the infection and symptoms are eliminated with prompt use of antibiotics. Delayed diagnosis and treatment can make the disease more difficult to treat and risk lasting disability, so it’s a serious concern.
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When you’re in tick country…

Ticks are found where they can reliably attach to deer, livestock, other mammals, ground-dwelling birds and even lizards. Some of the most productive tick habitats in the Columbia Gorge are oak woodlands and areas of vegetation at the edge of forests, along forest hiking trails and game trails and in grassy meadows. They are also common in power line corridors that cut through forests, around campgrounds and in tall grass along roadways.

While ticks are definitely stalking YOU, it’s not an active pursuit. Instead, they wait on vegetation for passing hosts to come along. Ticks can detect hosts by sensing carbon dioxide, scents and vibrations from movement of their hosts. They can sometimes be seen at the tips of grass blades or plant leaves “questing.” This is a behavior in which the tick extends waving front legs ahead of an approaching host, looking to catch a ride!

Sure, it looks funny! But it’s a proven practice for tick prevention

Sure, it looks funny! But it’s a proven practice for tick prevention

When you’re in tick country, wear light colored long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck pant legs into socks (see photo, above) and shirts into pants to close off points easy of entry at tick-level. This not only makes it harder for a tick to make its way to your skin, it also allows you to better spot ticks on your clothing, and simply brush them off.

Walk in the center of trails, and avoid brushing against tall grass or undergrowth along the trail. If you stop, sit on rocks or logs, not in grassy areas, and periodically brush your legs and sleeps to feel for ticks on your clothing. These simply practices not only help prevent ticks from going for a ride, they also help you avoid poison oak, so you get a twofer for these prevention basics!

Materials treated with DEET or permethrin are proven to repel and eventually kill ticks. Of the two, permethrin is the most effective and long lasting. This pesticide can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. It is toxic to cats, however — even from contact with recently treated clothing — so must be used with care!

DEET (left) is easier to use but Permethrin (right) is more effective for ticks

DEET (left) is easier to use but Permethrin (right) is more effective for ticks

DEET products are also widely available, and can be applied to both your skin and clothes (with some fabric limitations). Deet might be a good option if you’re hiking in warm weather and less inclined to cover up with clothing.

After your hike…

After you’ve been hiking in tick country, here’s an easy checklist to follow:

1. Check clothing for ticks when you return to the trailhead. Ticks may be carried home and into the house on clothing, so check before you get into the car. When you get home, be sure to immediately put clothing in the wash, then the dryer to take care of any stowaways you might have missed. Clothing that can’t be washed can go directly into the dryer, where an hour on high heat will kill any ticks.

2. Do a full body check. Before you get in the shower, use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body including your scalp, behind your ears and… gulp… around your privates! A thorough check should take about 30-45 seconds. Kids should be checked by parents!

3. Shower right away. Showering washes away un-attached ticks that you might not have spotted, and has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease as a result. It also gives you an opportunity for a thorough fingertip tick check with soapy fingers.

4. Do another full body check. After a shower, repeat the full body check with a mirror.

You should continue to watch for ticks for a couple days after spending time in tick country, to ensure that you haven’t missed a tick.

What to Do if You Find an Attached Tick

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Remove an attached tick as soon as you notice it with tweezers or a special tick removal tool. Grasp a tick as close to your skin as possible, pulling it straight out — and don’t “unscrew” the tick, as suggested in many folk remedies, as you’ll likely pull the head off the tick!

The tick remover kit shown below is one of the best available, and far superior to tweezers, as it involves no squeezing when pulling a tick — thus lessening the chance of infection or breaking off the head. This kit consists of a simple, forked spoon for lifting the tick out and a tiny magnifier for use in the field. I carry this kit in every one of my packs — it’s inexpensive, and easily found in outdoor stores or online.

The excellent Pro-Tick Remedy system makes pulling ticks a breeze!

The excellent Pro-Tick Remedy system makes pulling ticks a breeze!

Once a tick is out, wash the wound with soap or alcohol and monitor it for a day or two for signs of infection. Most tick wounds will heal up quickly, with no sign of the bite after a couple days.

It’s always safe to watch for any signs of tick-borne illness after you’ve been bitten, such as rash or fever in the days and weeks following the bite. If you suspect you have symptoms, see your doctor.

Ticks and your dog…

Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and diseases, and of course, hikers love to take their dogs into the Gorge. While vaccines protect dogs from some tick borne diseases, they don’t keep your dog from bringing ticks into your home.

There are several things you can do to protect your dog from ticks. Most obvious is to simply leave your dog home when venturing into areas known for ticks — and that includes areas in the Eastern Gorge. But if you do take your dog into tick country, there are some preventative steps that will greatly reduce the chance of a tick attaching to Rover.

The most common (and simplest) solution for preventing ticks on your dog is a once-per month, non-prescription insecticide treatments available from most veterinarians, online or from pet stores. The best-known options are Frontline Plus™ and Advantix™.

Frontline Plus comes in doses adjusted for the weight of your dog, and is applied from a hard-to-open, somewhat awkward-to-use dropper that can spill onto your hands

Frontline Plus comes in doses adjusted for the weight of your dog, and is applied from a hard-to-open, somewhat awkward-to-use dropper that can spill onto your hands

The key ingredient that makes both Frontline Plus™ and Advantix™ effective on ticks is premethrin, the same common, widely-used pesticide used to treat clothing for ticks. Be very careful if you have cats in your home, however, as premethrin can be fatal to cats, whether inadvertently administered or even by exposure to a recently treated family dog. Both treatments are applied along the spine, beginning at the back of the neck and moving toward the tail, and are effective for up to one month.

These products should prevent ticks from attaching to your dog — and even if one does, the premethrin ingredient would likely kill the tick, eventually. But these products don’t prevent ticks from going for a ride in your dog’s fur, so it’s always a good idea to inspect your dog at the trailhead, using a brush, before loading up and driving home.

Advantix has the same premethrin ingredient as Frontline Plus, but is easier to administer with well-designed tubes that keep the product off your hands

Advantix has the same premethrin ingredient as Frontline Plus, but is easier to administer with well-designed tubes that keep the product off your hands

Tick bites on dogs can be hard to detect, as tick borne disease symptoms may not appear for up to three weeks after a tick bite. Call your veterinarian if you notice changes in behavior or appetite in you think your dog might have been bitten by a tick.

Tick! Tick! (…but don’t panic…)

Okay, so this article might have you nervously scratching your legs on your next hike and seeing every black speck on your boots as a TICK! But don’t let these little blood suckers get you down! Sure, they’re annoying… and kind of creepy. But the basic precautions outlined above are easy to build into your hiking routine, and more than enough to give you peace of mind when you’re out on the trail.

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If you DO find a tick that has managed to attach to you, and you’re creeped out by the thought of pulling it — or can’t reach the tick yourself — simply head for the doctor’s office. They will take care of it for you, and the chances of any complications are extremely small. Even if you have pulled the tick, and are feeling sort of queasy about it, go to the doctor (with the tick). It will be worth the peace of mind.

For a lot more information on ticks (if you aren’t adequately freaked out by now), check out the Centers for Disease Control tick resources.

Then, by all means, get back out on the trail, ticks (and poison oak) be damned!

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28 Comments on “Ticks! Ticks! (10 Common Myths)”

  1. Jim Price Says:

    Excellent article but I have one observation: The Gorge is two-sided. A visitor looking at the maps and reading multiple geographic references would naturally assume “The Gorge” is in Oregon. This Oregon-centric attitude is pervasive and annoying for those of us who live on the pretty side. Jim Price, Stevenson, WASHINGTON

  2. Tom Kloster Says:

    Good point, Jim! So I’ll amend the general “tick country” dividing line to be “Bonneville Dam on the Oregon side and Stevenson on the Washington side” (roughly). You’re right that the heaviest recreation in the oak savannah part of the Gorge is largely on the Washington side, in places like Coyote Wall and Catherine Creek.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Mark Nelsen Says:

    Good tips. This is only anecdotal, but I’ll add that in 17 years of hiking and living in the western Gorge (west of Multnomah Falls), I’ve never had a tick or had a relative/guest get one. This includes owning 4 acres of timberland, walking through brush while working outside, and bushwhacking between trails. They may exist at the west end but must be exceedingly rare?

  4. Tom Kloster Says:

    That’s been my experience, too, Mark. I’ve brought ticks home from Eagle Creek on a couple of occasions (and heard similar reports from others), so that’s the hard science behind my theory that Bonneville marks a transition point. The Lowes used Horsetail Creek as the divider in their hiking guides of the 70s and 80s, but not sure if that was based on personal experience (most likely).

    I’ve probably brought home a dozen from east of Eagle Creek — including the Herman Creek area, Starvation Creek, Viento Creek and in the more typical places east of Hood River. I also spotted one climbing up my leg on Middle Mountain (near Parkdale) on a south-facing Ponderosa/Oak hillside — that’s as high as I’ve noticed one in the Mount Hood area.

  5. Eric Peterson Says:

    Great article Tom, could have used it a few weeks ago when I found a tick the next day embedded in my back after hiking Rudolph Spur, near Cascade Locks. Second tick lifetime for me.

  6. Tom Kloster Says:

    That’s a pretty good lifetime number, Eric — especially given all the time you spend in the Gorge! I’ve pulled something like a dozen over the years… well, I’ve had an assist from my better half on a few of those (for which I pay dearly) :-)


  7. This was an excellent article Tom, thank you for helping to bring awareness to this debilitating and potentially deadly disease with such detail. Unfortunately, there are well over 100 people who have taken part in the Mid Columbia Lyme Disease Support Group in the last few years and new Gorge residents, including children, are being diagnosed with Lyme almost every single month of the year.
    Just a few clarifications:
    “But if you remove the living tick within 24 hours, you’ve likely removed any risk of infection with a tick-borne disease” According to Dr Joesph Burrascanco, an internationally known expert on Lyme Disease, recent studies show that ticks can transmit disease after being attached for only 4 hours. And about 4 hours later, the lyme bacteria can find their way into your brain. Don’t chance it, remove the entire tick.
    “The risk of Lyme infection from a tick bite is estimated at 1-3 percent” Newer research shows about 30% of ticks can be infected, even in this area, and a physician in Portland who specializes in Lyme said if bitten by a tick in the Gorge, they would recommend 6 weeks of doxycycline, no questions asked. The CDC states that only 1 in 10 of those WITH lyme disease will test positive and meet the “reporting” criteria, which means the other 9 test negative and are still sick (and sometimes have trouble getting treatment unless they see a lyme literate doctor who can make a clinical diagnosis). http://www.lymedisease.org can help find you a physician. The only local doctor that has regularly attended International Lyme & Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) conferences is Dr. Joan Laurance of Hood River.
    Many of those very ill with Lyme in the Gorge have been treating for over 5 years at an average cost of $3000/month in out-of-pocket expenses, because insurance companies can still find doctors to testify “lyme is hard to catch and easy to cure” which makes it possible for insurance companies to refuse coverage for necessary medications. Recent, more accurate, research shows Lyme is easy to catch and can be extremely difficult to cure especially if other co-infections like Babesia, Bartonella, Erlichia are also transmitted by the tick. Look these up, they can also be potentially deadly and very debilitating.
    An excellent documentary on lyme, “Under Our Skin”, can be viewed free here: http://www.hulu.com/#!watch/268761 if you missed the local showings of it. The Mid Columbia Lyme Disease Support Group meets the first Tuesday of each month from 5:30-7, at the Hood River Adult Center off Brookside Drive, just west of the Sports Club.

  8. Stephanie P Says:

    Thanks for making people aware of ticks in our area. I’d just like to add that ILADS is a better organization to look up for further information about ticks. The CDC information is very vague and incorrect on many points, especially treatment. Tick bites are not to be taken lightly. I’ve been severely ill with Lyme disease contracted through a tick bite for 9 years now. It has absolutely changed the course of my life. I have been about 80-90% bed ridden for years. Unfortunatley, I did not know I had lyme while having children and ended up passing it on to my two children in utero. We are all three under treatment after finding a Lyme literate doctor a few years ago. It’s a long road to recovery, however. Treatment is quite simple if the illness is caught quickly, but very difficult if its been in your system for a while. So, my message to you is to not take tick bites lightly. Still enjoy the outdoors but know what to do if you get bit. Immediate treatment is the key.

  9. Pam Ritzenthaler Says:

    Thank you for your efforts to present info on Lyme Disease. My tick exposure was March 2006. In April 2006 I experienced what I thought at the time was the worst flu of my life for 2 weeks. It mostly passed but in June 2006 I had an afternoon when my body demanded that I lay down due to overwhelming fatigue. I grabbed my journal on the way to my hammock but once I laid down I was completely unable to move – at all – could not even hold a pen. That paralysis passed within a couple of hours. That began my search for a medical intervention and diagnosis. Because local doctors believe Lyme is ‘rare’ it took nearly a year to be diagnosed – and I was the one to suggest it and then had to find a doctor that would knowledgably test for it.

    At my sickest I could not work, read, play my clarinet, watch tv or movies. I washed my hair about once a month and had to rely on friends to wash my dishes and take me for short walks in the yard. Prior to this illness I worked 40 or more hours, was a member of the Gorge Winds Band and the Mid-Columbia Sinfonietta, volunteered within the community and took advantage of the great hiking and recreational opportunities in the Gorge.

    Now, in 2013, I’m able to work 18 hours a week and I read for recreation. Just this month I started flat water kayaking – my friend carries my kayak to the water for me.

    Lyme Disease is considered ‘rare’ because it is not adequately defined and the tests required to meet the CDC surveillance criteria are extremely poor and lack sensitivity. Just one example of this sensitivity is that the current Westen Blot teat for Lyme tests specifically for 3 strains of Lyme disease. There are over 300 strains of Lyme documented.

    To understand the Byzantine world of Lyme, please read Cure Unknown, by Pamela Weintraub and or watch the Academy Award Nominated documentary Under Our Skin (available on Netfix and HULU.com.

    Please do NOT rely solely on any one website for your research – especially the CDC’s website that extolls the IDSA Lyme Treatment Guidelines that were found by the Connecticut Attorney General to have been written by excluding 1/2 of the Lyme Science available, science that does not support IDSA’s science.

    Lyme Disease is a confusing quagmire of politics, egos, unwanted liabilities, and controversy. Please do not accept any simple statements about it. It is only ‘rare’ because it is not inclusively, or in my view,
    properly accounted for.

    Please check out http://www.ilads.org for info more balanced than common ‘knowledge’ about Lyme. Better yet, walk a mile in my shoes for 1.5 hours and watch Under Our Skin. Contact me if you have any questions. 541-399-4214 or pritz@gorge.net.

  10. N. A. Kern Says:

    I had never seen a tick until I moved to White Salmon and I was bitten three times in the first year right in downtown area and did contract chronic Lyme. Only in one instance did I have a bull’s eye rash. i really appreciate your alerting the public but feel you are too reassuring about this terrible illness that takes a huge toll in our area. For one thing, these ticks contain a number of virulent microorganisms: borellia, bartonella, babesia, Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever, ehrlichia and others. Three members of my family have been bitten (one in CA) and are very sick. It is well worth an ounce of prevent of taking a 6 week course of antibiotics if you know you have been bitten versus the many years of suffering with numerous symptoms that can be the alternative. You can’t know if the tick that bites you is free of infectious organisms and symptoms may not show up for months. Lyme is more prevalent here than you think– I know a number of people here in White Salmon who have Lyme still or have had it and were fortunate enough to be cured with antibiotics after only a year or two of treatment. It is during the first month that a complete cure is possible.


  11. I’m sorry you don’t feel you can post my comment. I’d be interested to know why since it contains information that can help area residents. I’d be happy to shorten it if that’s the issue.

  12. Elaine Says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this important subject. I too contracted Lyme Disease (along w/ 2 other infections) after being bit as a child. I had vague symptoms starting in my 20’s but it wasn’t until 2 very stressful events in my life (in my 40’s) really began to bring out more symptoms. Like Shingles, Lyme can lie dormant for years or your body’s immune system can keep it in-check until something compromises this system. Lymedisease.org is a much better site for the most up-to-date information. There is also a fabulous documentary, Under Our Skin, that can be viewed on Netfix or Hulu.com. A few more comments, Lyme can be transmitted in less than 24 hrs. My tick was attached for less than 24 hours and I know of others’ as well. Lyme is way under-reported as the reporting criteria is quite stringent. Even the CDC acknowledges that the disease is probably 10 times more prevalent than reported. Testing is unreliable which adds to under-reporting issues. I personally know at least 30 people in the HR area who have Lyme Disease and the Mid Columbia Lyme Disease Support Group knows of at least twice this amount. Many of these people have been ill for years. Thanks again. I hope this information helps others who may be ill and aren’t sure what is causing it or prevents others from this terrible illness. If you are bit, find a dr who acknowledges Lyme Disease and is willing to help. Contact the Mid Col Lyme Disease Support group for more information or help.

  13. N. A. Kern Says:

    One wonders how the 24-48 hour myth got started. I saw a tick bite me and removed it within moments and got a bull’s eye rash. Clearly this has never been a scientific study because for one thing there are no reliable tests for Lyme and certainly not in that period of time. So how did someone conjure the idea that when the tick bites a person, the microorganisms just wait there inside for the clock to tick to the right time to move from the ticks salivary glands to the body? In fact, there is a study that indicates that the borellia spirochete which has more DNA and intelligence than other bacteria can send out hormones to test whether the animal bitten is a dog, cat, human, bird etc and conform its DNA to better invade that particular animal. And it doesn’ take 24 hours to figure that out

  14. Elaine Says:

    Wow, N.A. Kern, I’d love to see that study!

  15. Tom Kloster Says:

    Thanks for the great comments and additional sources — and very sorry to hear about the struggles with Lyme disease. I hope there’s a better treatment solution (or even a vaccine) in the future.

    I’m anything but an expert on this, but did want to make sure that hikers visiting the Gorge take the tick risk seriously. I’m always somewhat amazed at the number of hikers I see on trails in poison oak/tick/rattlesnake country in shorts and flip-flops! So, the comments from folks who have actually contracted Lyme from ticks in the Gorge go a long way in making this “real” to people reading this article (and it’s has several hundred hits already).

    @ MidColumbia: not sure why you were unable to post, but it wasn’t anything on my end. It might be that something in your post was caught in the spam filter. Send me an e-mail and maybe I can help you get your message posted.

    Tom


  16. This was an excellent article Tom, thank you for helping to bring awareness to this debilitating and potentially deadly disease with such detail. Unfortunately, there are well over 100 people who have taken part in the Mid Columbia Lyme Disease Support Group in the last few years and new Gorge residents, including children, are being diagnosed with Lyme almost every single month of the year.
    Just a few clarifications:
    “But if you remove the living tick within 24 hours, you’ve likely removed any risk of infection with a tick-borne disease” According to Dr Joesph Burrascanco, an internationally known expert on Lyme Disease, recent studies show that ticks can transmit disease after being attached for only 4 hours. And about 4 hours later, the lyme bacteria can find their way into your brain. Don’t chance it, remove the entire tick.
    “The risk of Lyme infection from a tick bite is estimated at 1-3 percent” Newer research shows about 30% of ticks can be infected, even in this area, and a physician in Portland who specializes in Lyme said if bitten by a tick in the Gorge, they would recommend 6 weeks of doxycycline, no questions asked. The CDC states that only 1 in 10 of those WITH lyme disease will test positive and meet the “reporting” criteria, which means the other 9 test negative and are still sick (and sometimes have trouble getting treatment unless they see a lyme literate doctor who can make a clinical diagnosis). http://www.lymedisease.org can help find you a physician. The only local doctor that has regularly attended International Lyme & Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) conferences is Dr. Joan Laurance of Hood River.
    Many of those very ill with Lyme in the Gorge have been treating for over 5 years at an average cost of $3000/month in out-of-pocket expenses, because insurance companies can still find doctors to testify “lyme is hard to catch and easy to cure” which makes it possible for insurance companies to refuse coverage for necessary medications. Recent, more accurate, research shows Lyme is easy to catch and can be extremely difficult to cure especially if other co-infections like Babesia, Bartonella, Erlichia are also transmitted by the tick. Look these up, they can also be potentially deadly and very debilitating.
    An excellent documentary on lyme, “Under Our Skin”, can be viewed free here: http://www.hulu.com/#!watch/268761 if you missed the local showings of it. The Mid Columbia Lyme Disease Support Group meets the first Tuesday of each month from 5:30-7, at the Hood River Adult Center off Brookside Drive, just west of the Sports Club.

  17. NB Says:

    Hi! I was wondering if I could use the photo of the tick being held up by a tweezers/tool for one of my client’s blog posts. Let me know if you would like a link back to this site or how to do a photo credit blurb for you. Thank you!

  18. Tom Kloster Says:

    Shoot – I didn’t source that image, so not sure where I found it. Apologies for that — I use only use public domain images when they’re not my own, so it’s most likely from a public health organization and okay to use with photo credit. I just don’t remember who that was.

  19. Elaine Says:

    Please check out the information on this site…
    http://www.capcvet.org/parasite-prevalence-maps/ that provides state and county data for Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis in dogs. You must navigate by selecting:

    “Tick Borne Disease Agents”
    “Lyme”
    “Dogs”
    “OR” (Oregon)
    “Click here to select state county data”

    1 out of 7 dogs that were tested were positive for Lyme Disease in Hood River county. This number is approaching that of some of the highly Lyme endemic areas on the east coast. Also Oregon is listed on the map as having a “High” infection risk for Lyme Disease.

  20. Lyla Says:

    I got Lyme disease in Santa Rosa, Ca while hiking many years ago before any one knew what it was. I go to Oregon to hike and thought if I already had it, getting bit again is no big deal. That’s before I knew ticks carry so many other diseases. Never bit in southern OR where I hiked in the tall trees. My dog got it too, he was diagnosed by vet many years later. I had Bull’s Eye rash that went away after a week, and symptoms that did not set in for six months when they crashed me. Fever, stiff joints, sleeping all day, loss of appetite and weight. I still managed to finish my college degree by taking dexies, and later intravenous vitamin shots. This disease is to be avoided at all costs. The worst is that every single joint in my body hurts and is inflamed all these years later still. I will not go near any place with deer. I wouldn’t wish this disease on my worst enemy.


  21. Very good info. Lucky me I ran across your website by accident (stumbleupon).

    I have book marked it for later!

  22. Randy Magruder Says:

    Where do you find this Permethrin. And are there ticks along the coast line of Oregon

  23. Tom Kloster Says:

    You should be able to find it online – I googled it and found offerings from Walmart and other national sources. There are ticks in the Oregon Coast Range, but they are rarely reported — and even more rare along the Oregon Coast.

  24. Bailey Says:

    I might have a ticks head In my neck and I woke up at 5:00am and was itching like crazy and I felt something on my hand and there was the ticks body I couldn’t see the head how will I no if the ticks head is still in

  25. Tom Kloster Says:

    Hmm… well, Bailey – if you’ve got a tick’s body and it wasn’t moving, then there’s a chance the head broke off when you were scratching it. The head on a tick isn’t very large, but if it’s not moving, then you should at least have a good look at the site (and all over, actually) with a mirror to see if you can spot the location where the tick was attached. Stop by your doctor’s office if you’re unsure, as leaving the head can cause infection.

  26. Chuck Says:

    What with the unseasonable warm and wet weather this spring, this is looking like one humdinger of a tick season.

    As a long-time dog owner fighting feas and ticks and using various medications and repellents without much luck, a strange thing happeed. About 7 years ago, I was eating an orange and my 18-month old black lab got really interested in the peel. So I offered it to her and she ate it right up. This got to be a ritual every day and soon she was joined by her younger male companion, a golden retriever.

    Much to my surprise, that next spring, we had no fleas and no ticks to pull off of either of them–well, there were one or two, but they didn’t seem to be interested in attaching themselves.

    Nowadays, each dog gets half of an orange, peel and all, added to their feed every day. I bring home more ticks than they do.

    Is it the orange oil in their feed? I don’t know, but their vet marvels at their lack of “passengers”.

  27. Gena Says:

    Very informative piece. We hike daily and my dog always has several ticks only taking a ride thanks to Frontline. Found 2 on me this morning and one on the bed! Guess the ride must end somewhere!


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