by Ben Rogers, Fort Meade Public Affairs Office
Image by Marcia Balestri – Maryland Biodiversity Project
Ticks, Ticks and more Ticks!
Have you walked your dog around Fort Meade or conducted training in the fields here? If so, chances are you’ve encountered a Tick or two. Those pesky parasitic arachnids aim to rob us of our blood and possibly transmit a disease in the process. Certainly not the kind of creature you want to get cuddly with.
Benedict Pagac, Entomological Sciences chief for the Biosurveillance Program under the Public Health Command Atlantic, provides some interesting facts about the common pest.
There are three prominent species of Ticks in the United States: The Lone Star Tick, the Black-legged (also called Deer) Tick, and the Dog Tick. Mostly known to transmit Lyme Disease (https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/), Ticks can also spread other diseases such as Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Fever. Pagac says of these three major species, only the Black Legged Tick transmits Lyme Disease. This species of Tick is less common in the Fort Meade area.
Which tick do you most likely encounter on Fort Meade? The Lone Star Tick, which is easily identified by the silvery-white star shaped dot on the female’s back, known as the shield or Scutum.
Despite being known to cause strife in people's lives, these little creatures can be quite fascinating, according to Pagac.
“Scientists are studying the medical properties that Tick saliva has like anti-coagulation, antiseptic, antibacterial and adhesion properties,” said Pagac. The oldest known Tick was from the Cretaceous period, around 100 million years ago, [and became] one of the most efficient predators in the animal kingdom.
Ticks do not jump, fly or climb trees to get on prey. Instead, they search for prey by clinging on to vegetation with their back legs while reaching out their front legs, which are equipped with sensory organs, to detect chemicals like carbon monoxide (CO2) and odors in the air from animals. You can find ticks on low brush, vegetation and woods in high traffic areas where animals frequent, Pagac explained, identifying places like the edge of the woods where a meadow begins, or along natural game trails and popular hiking trails where people take their pets.
What is the best way to combat these little guys? Avoidance! The CDC has some great advice about how to avoid Ticks on their website at https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/index.html. The link primarily shows how to prevent ticks from biting you, your dog/pets, and how to prevent them populating around your home. But, avoidance is not always possible, especially if you’re a soldier training out in the field.
“My high-tech solution for field work is duck-tape,” Pagac says. He keeps a short strip of Duck-tape on his pants in case of an encounter. Using tape is the best tool for grabbing a crawling tick and preserving for study. Taping your pant leg to your boot is a good technique for keeping the ticks out. Additionally, Pagac recommends treating your field clothes with Permethrin, an insecticide aimed at combating parasitic creatures like Ticks and Mosquitos.
Army Combat Uniforms (ACU) are pre-treated with Permethrin and have been since 2013. From the Army Public Health website states, “The Army is providing a product that will enhance Force Health Protection and Readiness. A single factory treatment with permethrin offers significant benefits to the ACU Permethrin wearer including increased protection against the bites of mosquitoes, flies, midges, ticks, and chiggers for the life of the uniform.” https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/envirohealth/epm/Pages/DoD-Insect-Repellent-System.aspx
Removing embedded ticks immediately upon discovery is important. The best way to do so is by using a pair of tweezers and grabbing the ticks head as close to the skin as possible and pulling out. Pagac says that it’s ok if some of the mouth pieces of the tick remain in the skin, just disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol and keep an eye on the bite site over the next several days.
Pagac recommends that you keep the little guy just in case it causes an infection after extraction. He says to use a piece of clear tape and paper, write down on the paper the date/time and location where the bite and removal occurred. What’s more, the Department of Defense has a program called MILTICK which is a free tick testing and identification service available for ticks removed from Department of Defense (DoD) personnel and their dependents. This program has been operating for over 20 years at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. More information on the MILTICK program can be found here: https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/envirohealth/epm/Pages/HumanTickTestKitProgram.aspx
Fort Meade Environmental Chief, John W. Houchins, is tracking the Tick threat to our community. Houchins states, “DPW Pest Control/Entomology uses cultural controls to mitigate the need for spraying pesticides.
“For example, we work with the CDCs and [our] operations and maintenance [division] to keep grass lower and mow more frequently around childcare facilities. DoD has greatly reduced our use of pesticides through the years by utilizing Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
“Currently we do not spray for ticks,” Houchins continued. “The likelihood of a tick encountering pesticide after a treatment is low and we do not do preventative treatments under IPM. Our program also includes public education to inform our community on how to protect themselves from tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Lastly, we frequently collaborate with Army Medical through Preventative Medicine for the benefit of our community.”
The APHC located on Fort Meade helps combat the health hazards that Ticks present to the Fort Meade workforce and community. The APHC’s mission is to enhance Army readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats, developing and communicating public health solutions, and assuring the quality and effectiveness of the Army's Public Health Enterprise.
If you have additional questions, please contact Mr. Jason Hipp, DPW Entomology (301-677-6023) or Cpt. Schoonover, Preventative Medicine (301-677-8901).