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The Black-legged tick or Deer tick, is the main vector of Lyme disease. The Black-legged tick is a three host tick that primarily feeds on lizards and small rodents during its subadult life stages, and large mammals, commonly deer, canids, horses, and humans, as adults.
Adult female Black-legged tick from its black legs and scutum (the area behind the head) and its orange to reddish body. It is about 1/10 inch long or generally smaller than the American dog tick, and it has long mouthparts. An adult male is about 1/16 inch long and dark brown. Adult males attach but do not feed. Nymphal deer ticks are a bit larger than a poppy seed and are dark and teardrop-shaped.
Ticks are parasites, and they must find a mammal host for blood. They use their claws to grab onto a host and then dig under the skin with their mouthparts. Their mouth lets out a chemical, which is an anesthesia, to keep the host from knowing itâ€™s there. The tick can then bury its head in the hostâ€™s flesh and drink as much blood as it wants.
Life Cycle: Black-legged tick generally takes two to three years in life cycle. Eggs are deposited by adult females during the spring, which hatch a month later into six-legged, pinhead-sized larvae. The larvae feed once on the blood of host animals, such as a white-footed mouse, during summer, taking about three to five days to complete their blood meal. Lyme disease, human anaplasmosis, and babesiosis are not passed on to the larvae by infected adult females so they can only acquire any of these diseases by feeding on infected hosts.
Powassan virus, however, can be passed from the female tick to her offspring, and are therefore a potential source of infection. After feeding, larvae molt to eight-legged nymphs, the second immature stage, which overwinter until the following spring.
Black-legged tick Egg
During the late spring and early summer, these nymphs feed on host animals, staying attached for about three to five days. They also prefer white-footed mice, the primary source of disease infection, but will also feed on a variety of animals, including humans and dogs. Nymphs are very small, about the size of a poppy seed. The nymphs then molt into adults. Adult females feed either during the fall or the following spring, staying attached for about five to seven days when taking a blood meal. Adults are active outdoors even at temperatures as low as the mid to upper 30â€™so F but tend to be most active in warmer temperatures.
Management :Management of ticks and Lyme disease usually involve several strategies including surveillance, personal protection and vector reduction. Surveillance is needed to identify areas for control and to prioritize management efforts.There are three basic methods for vector management: reduce immigration, increase mortality, and reduce reproduction. Restricting the movement of infested hosts into an area reduces the immigration of ticks since they cannot move far on their own. Birds are difficult to restrict but by reducing food supplies and preferred vegetation their migration through an area can be decreased. The density and movement of rodents, which do not travel large distances, may be influenced by altering habitat to reduce brush, stacked wood and food sources.
Lyme Disease: The disease was first identified in Lyme, Connecticut in 1975 with the heaviest concentrations now recognized in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and along the northern West coast. Eight states have recorded the highest numbers of cases. These are Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. About 10,000 human cases are diagnosed annually.
Migratory birds may partially account for the spread of this disease since larval and nymphal black-legged ticks often feed on ground-feeding birds. The active months for human infection are May to August. Peak months are June and July. Lyme disease symptoms resemble many other diseases, like spirochete-caused syphilis.Â Lyme disease has been called the â€˜great imitatorâ€™ since blood tests do not always confirm Lyme disease or rule it out.
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