Sentara Martha Jefferson Heathwise: Tick risk

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Virginia's tick population is on the rise, and so are the diseases they carry.

Female Lone Star Tick, Photo Date: 2006 / Photo: CDC / MGN

Dr. Joshua Greenhoe with Sentara Internal Medicine Physicians in Charlottesville said ticks have a longer period of the year to be active.

"A lot of that is attributable to global warming," he said.

According to Greenhoe, warmer winters mean more tick eggs make it to spring.

He said people need to especially watch for the blacklegged tick, or deer tick, because it carries Lyme Disease. But it can be difficult to spot.

"They're about the size of a poppy seed," Greenhoe said. "They can be very difficult for patients to know that they're on their body."

The deer tick can only infect someone with Lyme Disease if it is attached for more than 24 hours. The common symptoms of Lyme include fever, aches, pains, and a bullseye rash. If Lyme goes unaddressed, it can cause long-term damage to the heart.

Greenhoe said most ticks will cause a rash to appear at the point of entry. If the rash stays smaller than a quarter and doesn't grow, Greenhoe said it's likely not dangerous.

"But if you see an area that is quarter-sized and growing, and growing, you should come in," he said.

Bites from the Lone Star tick can cause a sudden allergy to meat, and that tick does not need to be attached for too long to transmit the allergy. That tick is easily recognizable by a single white dot on its back.

Greenhoe is also concerned about an Asian tick that has just recently started to appear in Virginia. It is not connected to any diseases so far, but Greenhoe is worried that, in time, there will be "other diseases that are identified that are as of yet unknown."

The best way to remove a tick, according to Greenhoe, is to grab it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out. He said it's important to avoid a jerking motion, and it's equally important to avoid squeezing the body of the tick.

"If you squeeze the body," he said, "then you may be squirting some of the bacteria into your body."

Greenhoe said people should not be too concerned if part of the head remains inside the skin because the body will eventually expel the head.

To avoid getting any tick bites, Greenhoe suggests wearing long sleeves and long pants when going outdoors. Those who insist on wearing shorts and short-sleeves in the warm weather should apply bug spray with DEET, and spray Permethrin on their clothing.

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