Kyle Lightcap, of East Manchester Township, and his German shepherd, Gander, hit the Rudy County Park Canine Meadows on Wednesday. Lightcap gives Gander an
Kyle Lightcap, of East Manchester Township, and his German shepherd, Gander, hit the Rudy County Park Canine Meadows on Wednesday. Lightcap gives Gander an anti-tick bath regularly to keep the parasites away. (Bil Bowden photo)

If there's one thing worse than finding a tick, it's wondering whether that tick has passed on Lyme disease.

Pennsylvania continues to be one of the leading states for Lyme disease, with between 3,000 to 4,000 new cases every year, according to the State Department of Health.

And York County in particular has a very high incidence of Lyme disease, said Tim Abbey, commercial horticulture educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in York County.

"It could be tied to development here, with more homes going into wooded areas, or people getting tested more often or diagnosed more frequently," Abbey said.

Ticks thrive in transition areas between mowed lawns and unmowed locations or wooded spots, said Abbey.

Blacklegged ticks and American Brown Dog ticks are predominant in York, he said. The Blacklegged ticks used to be known as deer ticks and are the carriers of Lyme disease. They are tiny about the size of a sesame seed -- and smaller than the American Brown Dog ticks.

Misconceptions: Many misconceptions about ticks still exist.

"Ticks are not insects. They don't fly or jump," said Abbey. "People say 'Oh they must fall out of trees.' But if someone finds one on their head, they must have been laying down or the tick crawled the whole way up their body onto their head."

Doing a once-over body check of yourself and your children for ticks after spending time outside is the best way to avoid Lyme disease, Abbey said.

If you find a tick, remove it with fine tweezers, sliding them over the body of the tick until you start indenting the skin, and then pinch and quickly pull the tick out to remove the mouth parts, said Abbey.

Ticks are slow and can crawl for a while before embedding themselves into skin, he said.

"Ticks do need to feed for at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease," Abbey said. "So if you were just outside and did a body check and removed it, you're probably not going to get Lyme disease."

Most cases of Lyme dis-

ease are treated with antibiotics, Abbey said.

Weather's impact: The mild winter has not had an effect on the number of ticks, but it has brought them out earlier this spring, Abbey said.

East York Veterinary Center, 1997 Industrial Highway, has been seeing ticks on animals much earlier than usual, said veterinarian Dr. Chris Lopresto.

Using appropriate preventive treatments to protect pets is good, but Lopresto advises asking your veterinarian for a specific recommendation for your pet based on what environment, animals and other factors your pet is exposed to.

"Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection that we see in dogs," Lopresto said. "However, dogs don't get as sick as humans do. The majority of dogs never become infected."

Most veterinarians will perform a routine blood test annually or bi-annually on animals to check for Lyme disease, Lopresto said.

Dog owners have the option of a Lyme disease vaccine specifically for dogs, said Dr. George Hartenstein of Hill Street Veterinary, 555 Hill Street in York.

"It's an ugly disease," Hartenstein said.

Symptoms of Lyme disease vary and are often hard to spot, but for people they can include a rash or achiness and other coldlike symptoms such as a fever, he said. For animals the symptoms are usually fevers, stiffness or seizures, Hartenstein said.

"Any time you see a local tissue reaction to the tick that lasts more than half a day or so, whether it's an animal or person, look into it before you start to see the actual symptoms," Hartenstein said.

He advises using flea and tick products on pets and purchasing sprays and granules from hardware stores that can be spread on lawns to ward off ticks.

"Remove ticks carefully from pets," said Hartenstein. "The trick is to get down in underneath the edge and put on slow tension until it lets go. If you just yank it you'll tear the head off."

-- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or cshank@yorkdispatch.com