It’s time to prepare for ticks

To the Editor:
I am writing on behalf of the boards of health of the six Island towns to remind everyone that ticks will be more active in the coming weeks, and to urge you take steps to protect against being bitten.
Last Wednesday, I talked to three different people who had been bitten by an adult deer tick in the past week. While adult deer ticks can be active on any warm day during the winter, they will be more common now that the daytime temperatures are more likely to be above 40°. As you begin spending more time outdoors walking trails and working in your yards and gardens, please be vigilant. Do daily tick checks on yourself and your children. Use tick repellent, or wear clothing treated with permethrin, such as the clothing available from Insect Shield, when working or playing outside. If you do get bitten by a deer tick and you believe the tick has been attached for 24 hours or more, see your doctor ASAP. Taking these common-sense precautions now can save you from a world of trouble down the road.
At the same time, it is not too soon to start planning for the nymph deer ticks that will become active in early to mid-May. Because the deer tick nymphs are so small (about the size of a poppy seed), they account for the majority of tick-borne illnesses on the Vineyard. An important step is to spray your outdoor shoes with permethrin. Since deer tick nymphs live close to ground in dead leaves and other plant matter, spraying your shoes with permethrin and/or wearing permethrin-treated socks are particularly effective. Both Brickman’s and Basics clothing stores carry the treated socks; SBS sells permethrin spray, or you can purchase these products online.
The boards of health website at mvboh.org has a wealth of information on ticks, tick-borne illnesses, and preventive measures, including a video showing how to apply permethrin to your clothes (never put permethrin directly on your skin!). Starting in early May, I will be searching for deer tick nymphs, and will be reporting back as soon as I begin to find them. In the meantime, you can email me at mvticks@gmail.com if you have questions or would like more information about ticks.

Richard Johnson
M.V. Tick-Borne Illness Prevention Initiative