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Tick danger: Don’t bury your head

Summer is here, the woods and fields are calling, and people want to get out there and enjoy the outdoors.

Unfortunately, Becker, Hubbard, Mahnomen, and to a lesser degree, Otter Tail counties are in the red zone for disease-carrying ticks, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The most well-known, and the most common, is Lyme Disease, a potentially serious bacterial infection affecting both humans and animals. The incidence of Lyme disease in Minnesota has been on the rise in recent years.

But ticks also carry Human Anaplasmosis, a bacterial disease that was first recognized in Minnesota in the early 1990s.

It is transmitted to people by blacklegged ticks (deer ticks), the same ticks that transmit Lyme disease. HA is less common than Lyme disease, however.

There’s also Babesiosis, a protozoan infection that occurs infrequently in Minnesota. Approximately 20 percent of patients diagnosed with Babesiosis also have Lyme disease from the same deer tick bite.

Of less concern is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is extremely rare in Minnesota, but isolated cases have been reported within the state.

Minimize your risk by avoiding blacklegged tick habitats during the peak time of year (generally mid-May through mid-July).

Deer ticks are found in wooded, brushy areas, or wherever deer like to hang out.

If you’re out in the woods, one tip is to walk in the center of the trail to avoid picking up ticks from grass and brush.

And use a good tick repellent: The Health Department says products containing permethrin, which are used on clothing, are especially recommended for people who will be spending an extended period of time in possible tick habitat.

Permethrin products are marketed under names like Permanone and Duranon and are available in stores that sell outdoor gear.

Don’t use permethrin on your skin.

Standard DEET-based products are another option.

Use a product containing no more than 30 percent DEET for adults.

Concentrations up to 30 percent DEET are also safe for children (according to reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics). Do not use DEET for infants under two months of age.

Products containing DEET will also protect you from mosquito bites and mosquito-transmitted diseases.

It never hurts to wear clothes that will help shield you from ticks.

That means long-sleeved shirts and long pants. And tuck your pants into the top of your socks or boots to create a “tick barrier.”

Light-colored clothing will make it easier to spot ticks. Check often for them and remove them right away.

Ticks must remain attached for one to two days before they can transmit the Lyme Disease bacteria.

Some research suggests that human anaplasmosis may be transmitted more quickly.

Check your hairline, behind the ears, behind knees, waist line, and arm pits.

If possible, use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick by the head.

Grasp the tick close to the skin, then pull the tick outward slowly, gently, and steadily. Don’t squeeze the tick, and use an antiseptic on the bite.

Forget folk remedies like Vaseline, nail polish remover or burning matches: The Health Department says they aren’t a safe or effective way to remove ticks.

Summer is here at last. It’s time to get out and enjoy the outdoors, and by taking some simple precautions, you can walk in the woods and stay healthy at the same time.