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Boston.com Live Chat Daily Dose

Boston.com: Live Chat Recap: July 15, 2013

Join Dr. Tom Mather, director of URI’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease and its TickEncounter Resource Center, Monday, July 15 at 11a.m. EST as he answers questions about tick bite protection and prevention of tick-transmitted diseases.

10:36 - Health Producer: Hi everyone! Thanks for checking into this chat. Dr. Mather will join us at 11, but please feel free to submit questions now.
10:55 - Thomas Mather: Looking forward to answering all of your questions about tick bite protection and prevention of tick-transmitted diseases.
11:00 Health Producer: Okay, let's get started! Dr. Mather, thanks so much for joining us.
11:02 Thomas Mather: Thanks for having me on this chat. Let's take a look at some of the questions already submitted...
11:03 Comment From Boston Mommy I'm worried about checking my daughter's hair. Her hair is thick and curly making it difficult to really get a good check of her scalp for ticks.
11:04 Thomas Mather: Sometimes we find that it's easiest to use your fingers and feel for tiny bumps. A fine toothed comb might also be useful. The good news is that, for the most part, the tiny nymph deer ticks rarely are able to climb that far.

11:05 Comment From judyedwards05 is there any audio to this live chat?
11:05 Thomas Mather: Sorry, no audio
11:06 Comment From David What is the best protection against getting a tick on you to begin with? Seems like every time my sons or I walk through the woods, someone comes out with a tick on them (not biting).
11:08 Thomas Mather: We think the best protection is by wearing tick repellent clothing every time you are out in tick habitat. http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/insect_shield_your_own_clothes

11:09 Comment From Guest Who is Thomas Mather & how is he related to Lyme ?
11:10 Thomas Mather: Dr. Mather (a.k.a. the TickGuy) came to URI in 1992 from the Harvard School of Public Health, and now serves as director of URI's Center for Vector-Borne Disease and its TickEncounter Resource Center. His research focus is on tick ecology, area-wide tick control strategies, tick-bite protection, and tick-borne disease prevention. http://www.tickencounter.org/about/our_team
11:11 Comment From John Baldassarre How effective (and safe) are the sprays that you can buy at retail stores which claim to eradicate insects, including ticks, for up to 90 days. I have used the type that attaches to your standard garden hose and the results seem to be positive, but I want to make sure I am using a good product that actually works and is safe for small kids and pets.
11:15 Thomas Mather: It's really important to check the active ingredient. Currently, what we know is that synthetic pyrethroids, like bifenthrin, permethrin, cyfluthrin, etc, all are very effective as broadcast spray treatments for ticks. Some of these products come in granular (solid) form. We're currently testing several natural products and will have information on some of these by the end of the summer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc9-HjqQKxs&feature=c4-overview&list=UUYT_yRnV69C0Liz5efsfXRA

11:16 Comment From Bill Hi, I saw a show on ticks and it basically said deer were not the real problem as a carrier but that rodents and chipmonks etc. carried and spread more ticks than deer do. Is that true?
11:19 Thomas Mather: It's true that rodents are the reservoirs for many of the deer tick transmitted infections. Immature ticks pick up the infections from rodents and can transmit them when they bite again in their next life stage. Deer are critical though to the life cycle of deer ticks. They are the principal reproductive host. Adult deer ticks steal a blood meal mainly from deer and turn that into 1500-3000 eggs. http://www.tickencounter.org/resources/how_do_deer_ticks_become_infected

11:20 Comment From Guest Might be a silly question, but can deer ticks only be found in places that deer would actually be in or could get in? Example, I was in a small fenced off area that a deer couldn't possibly get in, could that area though still contain deer ticks in the high grass, etc?
11:22 Thomas Mather: As we mentioned above, immature deer ticks happily latch onto rodents, steal a blood meal, detach, and if the habitat is permissive for the tick to survive, they will molt into the next stage. So, if the fence would allow rodents to enter, then the answer is yes it is possible for ticks to be in such a fenced off space.
11:23 Comment From Beth Daley Hi Tom, I know that you can't give advice on treatment. I've had several questions from people since the story ran that asked to better understand how humid it needs to be for ticks to survive - and also how long they need to be attached to transmit diease. Thanks! Beth Daley
11:28 Thomas Mather: Great story in yesterday's Boston Globe, Beth. Deer tick nymphs in particular are very susceptible to dessication (drying out). Besides getting a blood meal, maintaining their internal body moisture is one of their most critical life processes. If we forget to put a bottle of ticks back into the humidity chamber at the end of the day (leave it on the counter), the nymphs will all be dead by the next day. In lab experiments, we found that the threshold relative humidity for these ticks was 82%; if ticks experience RH below 82% for 8 hrs or more, they start to die, even if they are returned to saturated conditions. Long answer but really interesting phenomenon--how nature kills these ticks--low humidity.
11:31 Comment From Noticks Now Are there certain times of the day that ticks are more active?
11:33 Thomas Mather: We find that deer tick activity during spring, summer and fall is pretty strong all day long, but we do see more activity in the cooler, more humid mornings and evenings.
11:33 Comment From Alex Hello Tom! I am the owner of an 8 week old golden retriever puppy. What are some preventative measures I can take against ticks prior to him getting his lyme vaccination at 14 weeks?
11:36 Thomas Mather: There are some great options for tick bite protection on puppies that are only 7-8 weeks of age. Some of the monthly spot-ons are safe for pups by 8 weeks, and the new 8 month Seresto collar is safe to use on pups as young as 7 weeks. Be sure to read the label carefully on any product you are considering. http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/tick_control#top
11:36 Comment From Kathleen Why can't we eradicate ticks like we do mosquitoes and fruit flies?
11:39 Thomas Mather: I need your tips on fruit flies I guess. Eradication is likely to be tough whenever the pest is mostly associated with wildlife. That said, it is possible to Get TickSmart and use a few of TickEncounter's top TickSmart actions to stay TickSafe. Are there any that you are already doing regularly? http://www.tickencounter.org/ticksmart/top_ticksmart_actions
11:40 Comment From Cyndy If someone has been treated for Lyme Disease are they now disease free or do they still need follow up on the future?
11:42 Thomas Mather: Just be aware that if you were diagnosed and had a positive blood test (antibodies present), you will likely retain an antibody titer for years. That's the beauty of our immune system; it has memory. A follow on positive test does not have to mean that you're still infected. Consult your dr for a proper interpretation of test results.
11:43 Comment From MaryJane I know that ticks are most commonly found on deer and on other woods inhabiting mammals...is there any evidence of ticks found on birds?
11:49 Thomas Mather: So, different tick species and stages may be found on their preferred hosts and they may also latch onto and bloodfed on other hosts, too. Immature deer ticks happily feed on mammals and many species of woodland birds. Robins are one of the most important, especially in suburban settings. Immature ticks can acquire the Lyme agent from some of these birds and not from others. We did a study years ago to show that grey catbirds for one, were not reservoirs of the Lyme bacteria. Birds are not likely to be the main reservoir for Lyme in any setting (rodents like mice are) but they sure can add some infected ticks into the mix. That's one reason we favor integrated tick control strategies in your yard -- targeted products on mice and perimeter sprays for the ticks from animals that don't use the targeted treatments. http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/protect_your_yard
11:50 Comment From hiker1234 Is Permethin treating clothing toxic to cats?
11:53 Thomas Mather: Great question! While liquid forms of permethrin can be toxic for cats, once the treatment is dry on the clothing, on your dog, or even around the perimeter of your yard, there's no evidence that it's toxic for cats.
11:54 Comment From boston mommy why when growing up did we never hear about lyme disease and ticks? Now it's everywhere?
12:03 Thomas Mather: Back in the day, we had ticks...big yucky American dog ticks. Mostly, people were bitten but few got sick. Now, we've got this new(er) tick that is in more places, and is more abundant, than ever before. It comes in small, medium (poppy seed size), and large size, and it's loaded with pathogens -- germs that can give you Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, relapsing fever, even a virus....a likely more that we don't even know about yet. When you look at the landscape of New England in the late 1800's there were few trees and even fewer deer in the landscape. Now, that's different. We have a mosaic landscape of wooded and open lots, we have a gourmet buffet of food for deer in our yards, and now, we've got a tick species that isn't a picky eater--it'll feed on rodents or you. When you consider that 1 in 4 of the tiny, poppy-seed sized nymphs is packing some kind of infection, and their numbers are just swelling thanks to both the environment we enjoy around us and the deer that help the tick reproduce, there really should be no surprise that we humans are receiving more and more, the spill over of infections in wildlife that can be transmitted by these ticks.
12:03 Health Producer: Unfortunately, we're out of time! Dr. Mather, thanks so much for your time and insights.
12:04 Thomas Mather: It was fun. There were so many great questions. People can keep up the conversation at www.tickencounter.org. Stay TickSafe everyone!

Original live chat link on Boston.com: http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/blogs/daily-dose/2013/07/12/live-chat-monday-lyme-disease/Qz3NIgb7cPwP3D29Sy4oEI/blog.html

Recent News: July 14, 2013: Three tick-related stories from Beth Daley, Environment reporter at The Boston Globe


Researchers strive for vaccine against tick-borne diseases

In a basement laboratory at the University of Rhode Island, adult deer ticks are taped onto their backs, legs flailing. For about an hour, the watermelon-seed-sized ticks continuously drool into a miniature glass tube.

A tick in her hair serves as reminder to take precautions

Despite jokes from the table about getting too close to the subject I was writing about, I was perplexed: Since embarking on a series about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, I thought I had become vigilant about not getting bitten at all.

A minuscule foe, a massive public health challenge

Should we kill all the deer? That was the question facing residents of Maine’s Monhegan Island in the mid-1990s. Lyme disease caused by deer tick bites afflicted 13 percent of the year-round inhabitants.