Tick-borne diseases not only are found in the woodlands and tall grasses, they now can come from ticks hiding close to the shorelines and beaches of California. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States that is caused by the hitchhiker from hell- the tick!
We are personally sensitive to the issue of having experienced the horror of losing our dog to the tick-borne disease while attending a dog show in Argentina.
Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases in Mendonoma
Here in California our ticks never take a holiday unlike those of the Northeast. Because they are active year-round in California, including at the beach, it is possible to get Lyme Disease and other tick-borne diseases at any time of the year.
One of the most well-known tick-borne diseases, Lyme Disease, was first described in North America in the 1970s in Lyme, Connecticut, the town for which it was then named. This disease has since been reported in many areas of the country, including most counties in California.
We don’t have specific information about people in Sonoma County infected with Lyme Disease. However, the good news is the CDC shows that California’s rate of incidence has lowered significantly since 2010 when it reported 126 cases. During 2019 there were 82 confirmed and 62 probable cases of Lyme in California.
What We Do Know
We do know that so far this year (2021), there have been 39 doges in Mendocino County and 521 in Sonoma County infected with Lyme disease. In 2014, Sonoma alone had 848.
(Visit Companion Animal Parasite Council website to see specific data for your state and county for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.)
Karen Miller, a patient advocate and a facilitator on the Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Group, Lyme Aid in Santa Rosa points out some areas of Sonoma County have very high infection rates in ticks, especially at Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa.
Also considered a high-risk area is our coastal area, which includes The Sea Ranch. In fact, a new study suggests we need to keep a careful eye out for disease-carrying ticks even when visiting the shores of Northwestern California. Just as many adult black-legged ticks carrying Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme, in areas of grass and scrub leading to the beach carried as many as they did in the woodland habitats.
According to the Centers for Disease Control: “Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans, or EM rash.
If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.”However, many people do not get an initial bull’s eye rash, leaving them confused about their many vague, shifting, and growing symptoms.
Other Tick-Borne Diseases
Sonoma is endemic to 7 known tick-borne diseases. Common among dogs and cats are varieties of Ehrlichia and Anaplasma. Left undiscovered or untreated it can become fatal as in the case of our dog.
Tips to Prevent Ticks From Sticking
Sea Ranch and all of the Mendonoma area are too beautiful to avoid for fear of possibly picking up a tick along the way. Below are 10 tips to help you keep them off of you, family members, and your pets.
Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, and pants.
You’ll have better luck in discovering any hitchhikers on your return from your hikes or treks in the woods.
Wear long pants with sneakers or hiking boots.
Tuck your pant legs into your socks, and keep your shirt tucked into your waistband. In areas where ticks are abundant, you might even want to wrap some duct tape around your ankles, over the top of your socks. Who knows you may start a new fashion trend that could also save you from great harm. Be sure to have extra duct tape to use on your pet when you return home.
Long loose hair should be covered, braided, or tied. Groom your pet before entering the home.
When venturing into areas where ticks are apt to be sure both you and your pet are well-groomed. It may take a while for a tick to latch if there is a lot of hair or fur to travel through. Therefore it is important to prevent loose flowing hair in the fields and to comb both of you before you enter the home. Otherwise, the tick may fall off and attack other family members.
Spray your clothing, use veterinarian-approved flea and tick repellent for your pet.
For you, a product that has 20% DEET or higher should be carefully applied by hand to your face, neck, and ears – you don’t want DEET in your eyes or mouth! Adults should apply DEET products to young children. You may need to reapply DEET products after several hours. For your pet consult with your vet to decide if once-a-month topical insecticides, flea and tick control sprays, powders and/or possibly a Lyme vaccine is right for your pet.
Use bug repellent clothing, hiking boots, tents, camp chairs, or apply Permethrin to all your gear.
Permethrin products should never be used on the skin. Permethrin is over 2,250 times more toxic to ticks than humans; so just a little bit provides great protection safely. It remains effective on clothing through several washings. Permethrin is sold under the names Permanone and Duranon.
Stay on the trail. AND keep your dog on a leash.
This just can’t be said enough. Ticks love high vegetation where they lay in wait for the passing host. As you or your pet brush through the vegetation, the tick transfers to your bodies.The trails at Sea Ranch are well maintained. Homeowners also will mow the meadow grasses short. Keep your dog on a leash no longer than 6 feet. When you stay on the trails you’ll avoid ticks and leave a minimal impact on this wild and beautiful place we love.
Avoid tick-infested places.
If you visit an area where ticks are known to be too abundant, your best bet is to simply avoid them.
Strip all your clothes and immediately toss them into the dryer set on high heat.
First strip down and immediately throw all clothing into the dryer set on high heat for 10 minutes. Electric dryers are not as hot as gas, so you might want to add 5 minutes if you have an electric dryer. This will ensure no ticks survive on your clothing. Otherwise, if left to linger in the hamper they may latch onto the next person walking by. Then wash them.
Be vigilant – do a daily tick check.
Take a shower and wash your hair all the while searching all those places that ticks love to hide. Their favorite locations are in your hair, under your arms, between your legs, behind the knees, and even in your belly button. The easiest way is to inspect yourself do it while sitting on the toilet. Just look down. It’s a lot easier to see many of those “below the belt” places where people commonly find nymphal and larval ticks than while leaning over or contorting to look in the mirror. And most people practice toilet-sitting at least once or twice a day.
Check your pets and keep your pets off the furniture.
Don’t forget to check your pet too and give her a good bath as well! Comb your dog with your reserved duct tape to get the larvae off your dog (and even you) before they bite. Abalone Bay provides towels for drying off your dog. You’ll find them in the garage in the box labeled dog and diver towels. Ticks can easily drop off on carpets or furniture, where they will wait for a blood meal to come along. Give Fido’s fur a check, and make Junior remove clothing and do a tick check too! Abalone Bay provides a pet throw to use for when your pet insists on snuggling up with you on the sofa or in bed. We insist you use our throw or other furniture covers to assure your pet doesn’t leave an “unwelcoming gift” for our next guest.
Resources for Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases:
A lab in Palo Alto where you can send a tick to be tested for Lyme disease.