Ticks are deadly insects that feed on blood of their victims and spread various diseases. These are small spiderlike animals that live in the fur and feathers of birds and animals. These are external parasites and are second to mosquitoes as the leading carriers of diseases to humans. They require an animal host like dogs, birds, reptiles to reproduce and feed on. They fasten themselves on to the skin of the animals and stay unnoticed for several days which makes them excellent carrier of diseases.
Ticks are arachnids just like mites and spiders. They are composed of two families namely, Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks). Hard ticks are encountered much more than soft ticks; even so both ticks are capable of transmitting diseases to humans and animals by latching onto the skin. It is not tick bites that cause diseases but the toxins and secretions in tick’s saliva that are responsible for transmitting diseases. They are mostly found in warm and humid climates that provide enough moisture for them to undergo metamorphosis. Other areas where they can be found include moist woodlands, vegetation around edge of forests, abandoned grassy yards in urban areas, grassy fields etc. Ticks easily detect their hosts by body odor and breath and quickly climb onto their hosts and attach to the skin.
Ticks are wingless with a single oval body region which is relatively flat. Adult ticks have eight legs and larvae have six legs. They come in a range of colors that varies from pale cream to fairly dark grey or brown. Their mouthparts are used to enter the skin to feed on blood. Hard ticks have a tough black plate on their back which covers a part of upper surface of female ticks and entire upper surface of male ticks. Due to this thick surface, hard ticks require many days to fully feed. However, soft ticks are leathery and can feed on their host in a matter of minutes.
Tick Borne Diseases
Irritations and infections are caused at the site of tick bites due to the presence of pathogens. Ticks are infected with bacteria including Rickettsia, viruses or parasites and cause diseases like Lyme disease, Q Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, African tick bite fever, Tick paralysis, Tick Borne relapsing fever, Tularemia, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, tick-borne Meningoencephalitis and Bovine Anaplasmosis. Due to ticks, dogs can have mild to severe infestations that can cause blood loss, weight loss or even death. People who are engaged in farming, landscaping, construction, forestry, park or wildlife management, oil field work etc can get exposed to ticks and become vulnerable to diseases. Infected persons may experience fever, headaches, joint pain, rashes, stiff neck or facial paralysis.
It is important to remove the tick from the skin in a manner that facilitates prompt removal. An effective way to remove ticks is to grasp it behind the mouthparts with forceps and then pull it out of the skin without leaving mouthparts or fluids into the wound. The site at which the tick attached should be washed with warm soapy water and disinfected using alcohol. In case of infection, the tick can be stored for identification purposes. Ticks should not be removed with heat or chemical sprays as it can kill the tick before it removes its mouthparts. The tick may regurgitate into the feeding wound and increase infection.
Ticks can be controlled by cleaning the infested areas like house or kennels thoroughly. Insecticide sprays and dusts can be applied to harborage areas like dog houses and structures occupied by pests. Guineafowl, a bird species that can consume mass quantities of ticks can be used to control ticks naturally. Methoprene can be used which is an insect growth regulator kills the eggs and prevents their growth. Chemical control agents can be applied by professional pest control experts and their application can greatly limit the number of ticks. Animals can be protected from ticks by using sprays, shampoos and medications.