Ticks are an issue not just for pets but for humans as well. Tick bites can make people sick with diseases and experience symptoms of rash, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, as well as joint swelling and pain. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details the number of reported cases of tick borne disease throughout the United States every year. On average over 45,000 cases have been reported since 2016, with 50,865 cases of tick borne disease reported by state and local health departments to the CDC in 2019. Pennsylvania is no stranger to the impacts of ticks, especially during the warmer months of the year.
According to an article published by PennState Extension, there are more than 900 species of ticks worldwide, and at least 25 of which are in Pennsylvania. However there are five common species of ticks that contribute to the spread of tick borne diseases throughout the state. These five ticks are American dog ticks, Lone star ticks, Groundhog (Woodchuck) ticks, Asian longhorned ticks, and Blacklegged ticks. All of these ticks carry a multitude of diseases that can be deadly to humans, especially Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme disease which has been a consistent issue in Pennsylvania for years now. The blacklegged ticks for example account for the vast majority of lyme disease cases in Pennsylvania according to Marten Edwards, a tick researcher and biology professor at Muhlenberg College.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health defines Lyme disease as a disease caused by bacteria that can cause flu-like symptoms along with a rash in the early stages, but can progress to arthritic, neurologic and cardiac symptoms if it is not treated. The CDC reported that 34,945 probable and confirmed cases of Lyme disease were recorded throughout the United States in 2019, with Pennsylvania having 8,998 of these cases. The State Department of Health’s Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology also released a report in October 2021 that recorded the spread of Lyme and other tick borne diseases in 2019 throughout the state’s 67 counties in 2019. For example, there were 211 recorded counts of lyme disease in Lehigh County that year.
What state health experts recommend residents do to protect themselves from ticks throughout the year is, avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, walk in the center of trails, and treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. When coming back from the outdoors check your clothing, gear, pets, and body for ticks after as well as shower immediately after returning home. And using insect repellents along with wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks can aid in preventing tick bites.