HARRISBURG, Pa. — Autumn brings the crisp, cooler air that is perfect for outdoor activities like raking leaves, hiking to see fall foliage, or just walking the dog more. Unfortunately, autumn is also peak tick season in Pennsylvania.
There are more than 90 species of ticks, but four commonly live in Pennsylvania: the American dog tick, lone star tick, groundhog tick, and blacklegged (deer) tick.
Blacklegged ticks are the most likely to carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. One in four adult ticks carry the bacteria.
Pennsylvania is among the top five states for rates of Lyme disease, according to CDC data.
Lyme disease can present with flu-like symptoms about a month after a tick bite, along with the telltale bulls-eye rash. However, up to 30% of people who get Lyme disease never get the rash.
“They don’t fly or jump," Sherry Dawson, owner of pest control company Mosquito Joe of South Central Pennsylvania said. "They simply just wait in tall grasses or on shrubs or in the woods, and they wait for a host. When our dogs or kids brush by, they latch on. Since we don’t feel their bite like we do a mosquito, we don’t always realize that they’re there."
Tips to avoid a bite include wearing long pants outside, using insect repellent, avoiding tall grass and brush, and doing a full-body check for ticks after being outside, Dawson says.
She advises that if a tick is found already attached to the body, use tweezers to carefully remove its entire body, including the head. Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to send the tick to the be tested for Lyme disease. A basic test from the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania is free.
A Lyme disease vaccine is being tested in tick hot spots in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to experts.