deer ticks

Female (left) and male (right) adult deer ticks

Harrisburg, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Department of Health, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Protection are reminding Pennsylvanians to avoid ticks by taking precautions when spending time outdoors as the weather begins to warm.

“Spending time outdoors and participating in physical activity is a key part of living a healthy life,” said Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam. “While we encourage safe recreation, we must be aware of ticks and the serious diseases they carry. As Lyme disease and related tick-borne diseases become more prevalent in Pennsylvania, it is important to protect yourself when spending time outdoors.”

Deer ticks (also known as blacklegged ticks) are the most common carriers of Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. They thrive in tall grass, brush, and wooded areas but can wander into many different habitats.

Common signs of tick-borne disease include fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches. Lyme disease can sometimes but not always be identified with a bullseye-shaped rash. The rash does not always form. Ticks mostly infect humans during the late spring and summer. Less commonly, they may cause illnesses during other times of the year.

Anyone who suspects that they have been bitten by a tick is advised to speak to a medical professional as soon as possible.

“As climate change continues to warm our winters, we’re seeing higher tick populations surviving months that used to be too cold to survive,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “As the number of ticks continues to rise, so do the odds of tick-borne disease transmission. We must remain diligent – both in protecting ourselves from bites, but also in seeking long-term solutions to address climate change.”

To reduce the chance of being bitten by ticks:

  • Cover exposed skin with lightweight, light-colored clothing
  • Avoid typical tick habitats such as dense wooded areas and tall grass
  • Use insect repellant containing 20% or more DEET
  • Check yourself, children, and pets for ticks after returning home
  • Take a shower after returning home to remove ticks that may be attached to skin
  • Dry clothing and gear in a dryer (when possible) to kill ticks that may be clinging to them

“Whether visiting one of our 121 state parks, hiking our more than 2.2 million acres of state forestland, or enjoying your own backyard, we must be cognizant of our surroundings,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Dunn. “Proper personal care and actions can keep us safe while enjoying the outdoors.”

Recent tick sampling efforts by the Department of Environmental Protection have found a rising percentage of adult blacklegged ticks infected with Lyme disease - about half last year - and about 12 percent of blacklegged ticks have been found carrying Anaplasmosis, which can infect people.

For more information about tick and mosquito-borne illnesses, visit the Department of Health’s Lyme Disease webpage and DEP’s West Nile Virus Program website.

This story was compiled by an NCPA staff reporter from submitted news. To see a list of our editorial staff please visit our staff directory.