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Delaware wants to keep ticks from ruining summer fun

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Tom Byrne
/
Delaware Public Media
The lone star tick is the post prevalent tick found in Delaware

Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial start of summer and that means more time outdoors

But state officials want people to be aware as they enjoy a hike, fishing, or just hanging out in the backyard that there is a danger lurking from ticks in Delaware.

This week, experts from DNREC’s Div. of Fish and Wildlife and Delaware’s Div. of Public Health join us to discuss the risks associated with tick bites and how best to avoid them.

Delaware Public Media's Tom Byrne interviews DNREC Tick Program entomologist Ashley Kennedy and Div. of Public Health epidemiologist Kristen Rios about ticks in the First State

Summer is a great time to be outdoors, but state officials warn Delawareans to watch out for ticks.

Ticks are prominent in Delaware and can be found across the state, with studies showing many incidents of tick bites occurring not just in parks, but in people’s own backyards.

But while ticks and tick bites are commonplace, many Delawareans aren’t aware of the risk that comes with them.

Ticks carry diseases that can lead to serious illness if you are bitten.

The most common tick-borne infection is Lyme disease, with Delaware being among the top 10 states when it comes to Lyme disease incidence rates in the United States. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease may include fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and a distinctive rash that resembles a “bulls-eye.” And more serious symptoms can come from delayed or inadequate treatment of the disease.

However, there are 6 other lesser-known diseases that Delaware ticks carry, as well, such as ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Signs and symptoms of both may include fever, aches, and gastrointestinal upset, with ehrlichiosis also showing a rash.

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Tom Byrne
/
Delaware Public Media
Delaware Division of Public Health epidemiologist Kristen Rios

Delaware Division of Public Health epidemiologist Kristen Rios says it’s important for the public to understand these symptoms that may come from tick-borne illnesses.

“The one thing that I notice a lot about the tick borne illnesses that I speak to is that they don’t even know that they’ve been bitten by a tick, or they don’t recall being bit by a tick. And so that’s important, too,” said Rios. “That’s why we want to prevent them from even having that issue. So wearing your bug spray, and making sure those ticks don’t even want to be on you.”

And DNREC tick biologist Ashley Kennedy says while you can’t always prevent ticks from getting on you, you may be able to stop them before they transmit disease.

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Tom Byrne
/
Delaware Public Media
DNREC tick biologist Ashley Kennedy demonstrates how they look for ticks during statewide tick surveys to collect and identify types of ticks.

“Regular and frequent tick checks when you come back indoors are critical because you want to find that tick before it bites you or, if that fails, before it has been attached to you for very long,” Kennedy explained. “Because the longer it’s attached, the more likely it is to transmit pathogens.”

And she adds that goes for pets, too.

Tick bite prevention includes wearing light clothing to easily identify if a ticks have climbed onto you, sticking to the middle of trails and in short grass when spending time outdoors, and wearing tick spray.

To help Delawareans exposed to ticks, DNREC has launched a new online tick interactions form that asks questions such as when and where the interaction took place, and a photo of the tick, if possible.

That form, as well as more information on tick-associated diseases and other prevention tactics, can be found at de.gov/ticks.

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Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and a graduated of the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021
Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for nearly three decades.