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As temperatures rise, county officials warn against tick exposure

Johnson County Government reminds residents to take precautions in warm weather to avoid exposure to ticks and other disease-carrying insects.

K-State Research and Extension and the Department of Health Environment offer basic information and prevention tips for tick exposure.

“We’re expecting tick exposure to rise this season after noticing an increase in early tick activity and in the aftermath of mild winter conditions,” said agriculture and natural resources extension agent Rick Miller. “We’re asking residents to take precautions when spending time outdoors to avoid exposure to tick-borne illnesses.”

Ticks can be difficult to detect because the insects develop in four stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult. The American Dog tick, the Lone Star tick and the Brown Dog tick are the most common tick species in Johnson County.

Ticks typically feed on native wildlife or domestic livestock to meet their need for a blood host. Once they have fed, they drop to the ground and molt into their next stage. Ticks repeat the process three times as they move from the larva to the nymph to the adult stage. Blood hosts are typically a mouse, small rodent, a bird or a deer.

Ticks do not jump or drop from trees. Ticks crawl onto blades of grass, weeds or low bushes and wait for a host to brush against the vegetation. The tick immediately releases from the vegetation and crawls onto the host.

Tick prevention

The Department of Health and Environment suggests the following ways to avoid exposure to ticks.

  • Avoid direct contact with tick by avoiding wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes and mouth.
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.
  • If you are concerned about ticks, be sure to inspect your body and scalp in search of moving insects before they have a chance to latch on. If an attached tick is discovered, immediately remove it using tweezers. Do not try unsound methods like finger nail polish or a lit match. This could cause the tick to expel disease-carrying fluids into the skin.

Extension professionals suggest that if you need help identifying ticks, take them to the county extension office and staff should be able to identify them or send them to state entomologists for testing. Residents can send a close-up photo to Rick Miller at rick.miller@jocogov.org and they can bring a sample to the Johnson County K-State Extension Office, 11811 S. Sunset Drive, in Olathe.