In spite of what you might think, something as little and as common as a tick can bring big trouble to farm animals and human hosts alike. Perhaps you have been bitten before by a burrowing tick and were lucky enough to dislodge it without complication and to avoid any viral or bacterial infection of consequence.
But each year the livestock industry is adversely affected by animal health diseases and a substantial number of human tickborne diseases are reported in the U.S., occasionally resulting in mortality.
In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, tick diseases are on the rise not only in the U.S. but worldwide. Researchers are quick to point out that some of the sharp rises in tick disease cases could be due to better counting and diagnostic tests. But nearly all experts agree that risk for exposure to tickborne diseases is a consequence of contact between ticks and people because we're moving farther into woody areas, which are also accessible for people looking for recreation, outdoor sports and relaxation.
Most people have heard of Lyme disease, which has spread since discovery in the 1970s to over 35,000 U.S. cases per year. It’s not the only fast growing problem. Cases of a tickborne illness known as ehrlichiosis grew from 200 in 2000 to 957 nationwide in 2008, a 378 percent jump. And the infection anaplasmosis nearly tripled in the same period, while Rocky Mountain spotted fever quintupled. There is the new disease, STARI (southern tick-associated rash illness), which has spread across the South. In the Gulf and Pacific region, strains of an infection called rickettsiosis are becoming more common.
Even human cases of babesiosis is rising, along with other potential harmful diseases that make tick encounters even less desirable and less safe than ever before.
A proper app for the right occasion
Tickborne diseases are serious business, and any help a farmer or outdoorsman can use, the better the chance of avoiding tick complications in the field and woods.
Dr. Pete Teel, Texas AgriLife Research entomologist at College Station and hero tick stalker extraordinaire, has created just the right tool to take Texas ticks to task. He has created a one-place-for-all info-tool called the TickApp, a central cyber point that can be accessed any time/any day for all the tick information you need whether you are a dog owner, hunter, farmer or rancher, hiker, soldier, or medical professional.
Teel says the mobile smart-phone app is available at no charge and is easy to use with little searching required.
“Whether you are a healthcare professional needing fast tick identification information, an urban pet owner slogging through the bewildering arsenal of control alternatives or a South Texas cattleman facing financial hardship due to ticks, the app is meant for you,” Teel said in a recent AgriLife update. “It’s all very user-friendly and opens with just six easy-to-follow tabs that are quick to navigate. There’s a brief introduction, then a tick ID tab followed by tabs on tick biology, prevention and protection, removal and finally control and management practices.”
The TickApp can be downloaded at http://tickapp.tamu.edu.
According to Teel and USDA research entomologist Joe Mathews Pound in Kerrville, conditions have been setting up for a heavy tick year.
“The warm winter and early spring rains set things in motion, and areas where there is growth will probably see more ticks than usual. Some years tick numbers are up and some years they are down, but under the right conditions they can become a problem, especially for cattlemen,” Pound said.
Pound advises ranchers to watch carefully for ticks around the ears of cattle, especially, and to consider proper treatment options as conditions warrant.
“I would remain very watchful of early symptoms of sickness or disease or major change in animal habit. A quick inspection doesn’t take long and can help you react. I would also make an attempt to identify ticks I might see cropping up in the field or woods. Different ticks can carry different diseases,” he adds.
Teel’s new TickApp appears to be the perfect tool for better managing your tick problem, long before it becomes critical.