Ticks – Washington State Department of Health

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Different species of ticks transmit different diseases. We encourage the public to submit ticks for identification. By submitting a tick, you help us track species distributions, seasonal activity trends, and determine risk for tick-borne disease in your area. Learn how to submit a tick.

Ticks are small blood-feeding parasites and some species can transmit diseases to people. Some species of ticks perch on the edge of low-lying vegetation and grab onto animals and people as they brush past. Other ticks are associated with rodents and their nests, and at night they venture out to feed. Once aboard, ticks crawl until they find a good spot to feed, then burrow their mouthparts into the skin for a blood meal. Their bodies slowly enlarge to accommodate the amount of blood ingested. Ticks feed anywhere from several minutes to several days depending on their species, life stage, and type of host.

Learn about the four tick species commonly found in Washington that are known to bite and transmit disease to people.

In the Pacific Northwest, relatively few tick-borne disease cases are reported each year in comparison to other regions of the United States. In Washington, the tick-borne diseases known to be locally acquired include: babesiosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, tick paralysis, and tularemia. Learn about these tick-borne diseases and others of concern, and what symptoms of illness to watch for. Many other tick-borne diseases can be acquired through travel outside the state and country. You can find information about tick-borne diseases in different regions of the United States at CDC Tick-borne Diseases of the United States and in other countries at CDC Tick-borne Diseases Abroad.

Your best defense against tick-borne infections is to reduce exposure to ticks.

More information on ways you can prevent tick bites can be found at CDC Avoiding Ticks.

Avoid folklore remedies to remove a tick. Hot matches or coating the tick's body with petroleum jelly, soap, or nail polish do little to encourage a tick to detach from skin. In fact, they may make matters worse by irritating the tick and causing it to release additional saliva, increasing the chance of transmitting disease. Your goal is to remove the tick as soon as possible. Do not wait for it to detach. Follow these steps on how to safely remove a tick.

Neither the Washington State Public Health Laboratories nor the CDC routinely tests ticks for disease. DOH can, however, identify ticks to species. Because different tick species transmit different disease pathogens, knowing the tick species may help a healthcare provider diagnose an illness that could be associated with a tick bite.

DOH does not recommend testing ticks for evidence of infection in people or pets because:

If you are interested in having your tick tested for other reasons, see the Laboratory of Medical Zoology, University of Massachusetts. For a service fee, the laboratory will test for presence of pathogens common to the determined tick species, and get test results to you within three to five days. The laboratory is a non-profit organization.

You can make your yard less attract to ticks. Focus your management of tick habitat to areas frequently used by your family, not necessarily your entire property.

Soft ticks behave differently than most ticks. They are found in mountainous regions living within rodent burrows and nests of mice, squirrels, and chipmunks. The ticks prefer dark, cool places, such as rodent nests in shaded wood piles outside buildings, and between walls or beneath floorboards inside buildings. People most often encounter these ticks when sleeping in rodent-infested cabins. Soft ticks emerge at night and feed briefly, like bed bugs. Because the bites are quick and painless, most people do not know that they have been bitten. Infected soft ticks can transmit tick-borne relapsing fever.

When staying in summer cabins or vacation homes, especially in eastern Washington, make sure rodents, and their ticks, aren't spending the night with you. Practice rodent control by not attracting rodents, sealing them out of your living areas, trapping rodents, and properly cleaning up rodent-contaminated areas.

Hunters and their dogs are especially vulnerable to tick-borne diseases because of time spent in tick-infected areas. Learn how to prevent tick bites during hunting season, see CDC's precautions for hunters.

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Ticks - Washington State Department of Health

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