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Advice given in time for tick season

SoVaNow.com / April 22, 2010
Halifax County supervisors and Town Council members from South Boston and Halifax received a short lesson Monday night on what to look for as the tick season gets in full swing. One supervisor, J. T. Davis, said he pulled off 27 of the tiny little insects that he found crawling on his skin the previous day.

Dr. Charles Devine of the State Health Department advised that not all ticks carry the dreaded “tick fever,” or Lyme Disease. Describing three kinds of ticks, Devine said the bacterial disease carrier is not the “lone star tick,” marked by a white spot on its back, or the larger dog tick. Instead, he said, Lyme is transmitted by a tiny black leg tick that’s so small it’s hard to see. Devine said the tick must be attached to a human and feed for some 36 hours before the disease can be transmitted.

He said tick bites can result in early localized infections with a rash usually appearing around the bite within three to 30 days. If left untreated, the bite can become infected, causing severe headaches and pain in the joints through the first fourth months.

A latter, third stage of the disease is marked by disseminated infection, which may cause severe arthritis and swelling of the large joints of the body, said Devine.

Lyme Disease has become much more prevalent over time after originating in the northeast and steadily moving southward. While the health department does not treat the disease, it does keep records of its spread. In 2009 there were 868 cases reported in Virginia, three in Halifax County.

Devine advised that residents should avoid tick habitats, such as heavily wooded areas where there is a lot of underbrush and leaves on the ground. He also recommended dressing appropriately in light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily spotted as they cling on humans. He also suggested the use of Deet, a bug repellant spray for the skin.

The important thing, Devine emphasized, is to know the early signs of Lyme Disease and to take steps to deal with it.

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