It’s BADA’s (Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness UK) Tick Bite Prevention Week and despite the snow, ticks are active. It is little known that these insects operate all year round and indeed I myself found a fully gorged little so-and-so which had fallen off one of the animals when they were doing their highland fling watching me mix their dinners and waiting to be fed about a month ago.
Lack of awareness:
Many people have never heard of ticks. Others do know what they are but are unaware that British ticks can carry and transmit a number of diseases to all manner of wildlife, livestock, domestic pets and humans. Other people have grown up in situations where they have been in regular contact with ticks but perhaps feel that, so far, they have only been a mild irritation and are nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, various combined factors now mean that we are at increased risk of contracting a tick-borne infection.
There is no need to panic about ticks but an awareness of their presence, the simple precautions that can be taken against tick attachment, and how to remove them safely, is key to avoiding contracting tick-borne diseases.
What are they:
Three particular species of hard tick are more likely to attach to people and their pets in the UK. One is Ixodes ricinus (also known as the sheep tick, wood tick, deer tick and castor bean tick), the second is Ixodes hexagonus (also known as the hedgehog tick), and the third is Dermacentor reticulatus (also known as the ornate cow tick or the marsh tick). However, there are many different species of ticks in Britain, and 15 of them have been known to attach to people. It can depend on the area, habitat and surrounding wildlife, as to which species are most abundant.
Ticks normally choose wildlife and farm livestock to be their hosts. However, people and pets send out the same signals (body heat and chemicals) as the tick’s usual hosts. The tick recognises these signals as being from a potential host and they will readily attach. Because we are not generally the intended host, we become “incidental hosts”, meaning that we are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Due to various factors, ticks are more abundant and are active for longer periods (even at low temperatures), therefore it has become more common for us to be incidental hosts.
Have a look at the excellent BADA Tick Bite Prevention Week website and be prepared. We walk through fields, river banks, etc. where stock have been, our dogs may pick them up, there are any number of ways we may come into contact as shown on this excellent website.