GREENSBORO, N.C. — Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are two of the most common tick-borne illnesses in North Carolina. Ticks can be hard to spot, but if they do latch on to you, they can cause some nasty diseases.
Summer months mean more time outside and that can mean you’re more likely to get a tick bite.
“Ticks can be anywhere, they know no boundaries. I’ve found them in my washing machine after washing my clothes,”said Joe Johnson. with Guilford County Public Health.
Johnson is the water quality manager. He usually deals with environmental concerns, but he also looks into situations with mosquitoes and ticks.
You could say, in one way or another, he is surrounded by ticks. He even keeps a running list of tick bites on his team. He started keeping track last year.
It’s a problem he’s run into himself. He now lives with an allergy that is believed to have stemmed from a tick bite. He’s also run into multiple tick problems with his family.
“My wife has had Lyme disease, my youngest son just finished an antibiotics course for Rocky Mountain spotted fever,” he said.
Between the three of them, he did a lot of research into ticks in addition to his work, so he knows a lot about the risks.
The most common ticks here are lone star ticks and dog ticks, but there are more types here now than there used to be.
“We see the the black legged tick which carries Lyme. Twenty years ago that’s just something we didn’t hear about but that tick’s range has extended south now,” he said.
And this time of year is prime time for tick bites.
“It’s exposure. It’s because people are out, doing outdoor activities, camping, hiking, even just going to the park and throwing a Frisbee. All of those things are just making it that much more likely to get a tick,” Johnson said.
The count is not necessarily higher, but he’s gotten more reports of tick problems even from his own team this year.
“I don’t know numbers-wise if it’s any worse than any other year, but they are finding quite a few ticks on them,” he said.
Johnson’s biggest piece of advice is to check yourself for ticks, and if you do find one on you, get it safely off as quickly as possible.
“If you’re not aware that you’ve got a tick bite, then you might not know why you’re getting sick,” he said.
Ticks usually are in more heavily wooded areas or heavy brush. It can be hard to prevent them, but there are some things that can help. Keeping your yard maintained and trimming limbs back can help.