TOMS RIVER – Attention Ocean County residents! Be on the lookout for ticks and tick borne illnesses as you spend more time outdoors during the warmer weather this year. Ocean County officials urge everyone to be vigilant to avoid tick bites and infections.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that the number of disease cases from ticks have doubled in the last 13 years,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Health Department. “It is important that we work together to educate and raise awareness so we can keep the number of tick borne illness incidents low.”
The CDC reported that NJ was in the top 20 percent of states, with over 12,856 disease cases from ticks reported between 2004 and 2016.
Officials ask you to take precautions when venturing outdoors this season.
“When spending time outdoors it is very important to be vigilant of tick bites,” said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, who is also liaison to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service. “One of the most important things we can do is take precautions to help reduce the chance of getting a tick infection.”
A well-known tick borne illness is Lyme disease, spread by the blacklegged tick (deer tick). This tick can be found in the shrubby understory of the forest, high grassy areas, and in open fields; they prefer the cool, moist woodlands.
The Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service of Ocean County reported that 20-45 percent of deer ticks in NJ carry Lyme disease. More than 70 percent of Lyme disease cases occur from the bite of ticks in the nymph stage – which is the size of a poppy seed.
The Ocean County Health Department suggests these prevention methods to keep clear of ticks, including:
- Walking on cleared trails
- Staying in the center of a trail to minimize contact with leaf litter, brush and high grasses
- Minimizing the amount of exposed skin by wearing white socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. You can tuck the pant legs into the socks, so ticks cannot crawl up the inside of the pants
- Wearing light-colored clothing to make it easier to spot ticks
- Removing ticks immediately before going indoors
- Applying repellents to skin and clothing (Products that contain DEET can be directly applied to exposed skin and to clothing. Permethrin (hunter-grade) products can be applied to clothing/boots/shoes – not to skin – and actually kill ticks on contact with the treated clothing
- Using a hand-held mirror to thoroughly view all parts of the body
- Checking children and pets for ticks
If you find a tick on yourself, your child or your pet:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
Note: a tick must feed for at least 24 hours before they can transmit the Lyme disease bacterium.
Make sure to follow these precautionary steps to avoid contact with ticks. In the event that you find a tick on yourself or someone else, try to avoid remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin.
If you find a tick, place it in a sealed container with a slightly damp (with water, not alcohol) piece of paper towel. You can bring it to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, 1623 Whitesville Road in Toms River, for identification. Tick experts are available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
For more information, call the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office at 732-349-1246, or visit the Extension Office website at ocean.njaes.rutgers.edu.