Preventing Tick-Borne Illness

Deer Tick

(Picture of: Ixodes scapularis , the Black-Legged or Deer Tick (male)

Lyme disease is an illness caused by the spirochete bacteria, Borellia burdorferi, which are transmitted to man and animals by tick bites. Although not all ticks carry the disease, in some areas as many as 9012f the ticks can be infected. The disease gets its name from the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first described in 1975. Many feel if it were not for AIDS, Lyme disease would be the number one infectious disease threat in the United States today.

Ixodes dammini is responsible for most of the cases of Lyme disease in the northeastern and north central United States. These ticks are found in grassy areas (including lawns), and shrubby and woodland habitats, even on warm winter days. The adult ticks (about the size of a sesame seed) feed mostly on white-tailed deer but will also attack other mammals including man. If infected, they can transmit the Lyme disease spirochete to their hosts. After engorging, adult female ticks drop to the ground to lay several thousand eggs. The larvae hatch from the eggs and seek hosts, often the white-footed mouse, from July through September. The larvae are very small and difficult to spot.

Some of the larvae acquire the Lyme disease spirochete while feeding on infected hosts. After engorging, the larvae molt into nymphs, which seek hosts to feed on from April to September. Both the larval and nymphal stages attach to a variety of small mammals, white-footed mice being the main reservoir of the Lyme disease spirochete. Nymphs that were infected as larvae can now transmit spirochetes to their new host. In fact, it is the nymphal stage that appears to be responsible for nearly 9012f the Lyme disease cases in people. This stage is also very small (about the size of a poppy seed). Their bite is painless so most people do not know they have been bitten. The nymphs molt into adult ticks and the process starts all over. The entire life cycle requires three separate hosts and takes about two years to complete.

Spread primarily by wildlife, infected ticks have been found on 29 species of mammals including deer, mice, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, opossum, and fox. Infected ticks have also been found on over 49 different species of birds. Indeed, birds may be the primary means by which the ticks are spread from one area to another. The tick prefers deer for reproduction, but will utilize other animals when few deer are present.

The lone star tick, a common southern species, as well as several other Ixodes ticks can transmit the disease.

from: Ticks, Lyme Disease and You, (from a site no longer active)

Exposure to ticks can be reduced by employing the following practices:

1. Cultural: Keep grassy and weedy areas trimmed to reduce harborage for tick hosts. The reservoir tick host that carries lyme disease is the white-footed mouse.

2. Avoidance: Whenever possible, stay out of tick-infested areas, grassy pastures, prairies, and wooded areas. Restrict movement of your dog.

3. Proper Clothing: When entering tick-infested areas, wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers with tight-fitting cuffs.

4. Repellents: Use an insect repellent containing the active ingredient diethyl toluamide (DEET). Apply to clothing and areas of exposed skin such as hands, wrists, ankles and neck. Protect dogs with flea and tick collars.

5. Inspection and Removal: Inspection and removal of ticks reduces the risk of lyme disease transmission. After crawling on a potential host, a tick may take up to a day to attach and feed, so you may be able to remove a tick before it has attached. In addition, the risk of disease transmission is related to the length of feeding so attached ticks should be removed promptly. Ticks tend to concentrate on the head, shoulders, neck and in ear canals. Remove embedded ticks with forceps, by gripping the tick carefully at the point of attachment and pulling upward in a slow but firm manner.

Care should be taken when removing a tick from pets or humans to insure that the entire tick is completely removed from the skin (the head often breaks off). After removal, wash the wound with soap and water and apply alcohol or some other disinfectant to help prevent infection.

6. Insecticides: Around the outside of the home, tick numbers can be reduced by using residual insecticides such as carbaryl (Sevin), chlorpyrifos (Dursban) and diazinon. Follow label instructions. For tick control on pets, use only baths, sprays, and dips that are recommended by your veterinarian.

To check for ticks in your yard or acreage, you can drag a white cloth (such as an old pillowcase) through the vegetation as you walk. Ticks, waiting at the top of a blade of grass or shrub for a passing host to wander by, will grab hold of the cloth and be easy to see against the white background.

From: Lyme Disease and Tick Management, maintained on another site.

Date: Sat, 19 Aug. 1995

First of all, Lyme disease is not the only thing that ticks transmit. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another nasty that comes to mind.

Every tick that has latched on to anyone needs to be removed, but you should not stop there. You really need to save the tick in a labeled container (date, location, and who it was removed from) and turn any collected ticks over to you local public health authority when you get home. They can send the ticks in for analysis, so that you will be able to find out if the bite-ee is at risk for any particular disease based on the area where you were located. this goes a long way toward alleviating any fears you, the Scout, or the parents may have - and there's a heck of a lot to be said for this kind of peace of mind! You can keep the tick separated from everything else by sticking it between layers of sticky tape, which can, in turn, be used for writing the individual information on.

The next VERY IMPORTANT issue is that you MUST train your Scouts about ticks, the diseases they can carry, their favorite attachment sites, how to remove them, and what needs to be done to keep them for analysis. The also need to understand the need for helping each other check places that cannot be seen on themselves. Why? Well, you probably do not wish to be removing ticks from some of the places they need to get to... In addition to the easy to find locations, the most favored attachment sites for ticks are where the skin is loose, soft, and moist. Summertime, with its hot weather and universality of shorts amongst at least the younger set, introduces us to the ticks that lodge in places where the bite-ee will employ a great deal of stammering, eye-shifting, and blushing when he or she tells you about them.

This places one and all into what might be most tactfully described as a difficult situation. To begin with, you really don't want to get involved with removing ticks from "there" on other people, especially your Scouts. They are not likely to want you to be removing "those" ticks for them, either...

This is why they need to know the proper method for removing ticks with tweezers - or better yet, the commercially available tick removal devices you can find in most camping stores. DO NOT TEACH SCOUTS THE OLD CHEMICAL OR HEAT METHODS FOR REMOVING TICKS!!!!!

Not only can these chancy techniques damage the tick to the point where proper analysis is impossible, but they can be a mite bit uncomfortable for the bite-ee... They also need to know how to put the little suckers onto tape to bring to you for safe-keeping.

DO NOT make a big deal about this, simply thank the Scout, add the identification data to the tape, and add it to your daily collection. Friends need to check friends in ALL areas of the body where one cannot see one's skin for one's self.

There will also be times when a Scout will need a tent-buddy or like-aged friend to remove a tick from those parts of "there" where he or she can't see. Again, this should be approached matter of factly, without spare comments that may make the Scouts feel any more uncomfortable about the topic than they will otherwise be. You SHOULD emphasize that normally only a minority of any tick species will be carrying any diseases, but that if one is carrying something, the earlier it is removed, the less likely the Scout will be to actually get the disease him or herself.You will need to tell the parents what you will be teaching the Scouts about ticks, tick checks, and tick removal - and why. You will need to tell each Scout's parents after an activity where a tick was removed from him or her, so that they will be able to be on the look-out for symptoms of illnesses that are endemic in your local ticks.

Ticks are not always a comfortable bug to deal with, especially when they latch on somewhere around "there", but we DO need to do our best to look out for our Scouts' health and safety. Where ticks are concerned, we also need to set things up so that we will not have to compromise any of our child-safety guidelines. It's not that difficult to do, so long as we set things up for this problem with a bit of common sense.


From an article posted on rec.scouting by: Norman J. MacLeod (

For more information see:

Page updated on: August 10, 2007

Scouts Using the Internet Cartoon - Courtesy of Richard Diesslin - Click to See More Cartoons
© 1994-2024 - U.S. Scouting Service Project | Site Map | Disclaimer | Project Team | Contact Us | Privacy Policy

Materials found at U. S. Scouting Service Project, Inc. Websites may be reproduced and used locally by Scouting volunteers for training purposes consistent with the programs of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) or other Scouting and Guiding Organizations. No material found here may be used or reproduced for electronic redistribution or for commercial or other non-Scouting purposes without the express permission of the U. S. Scouting Service Project, Inc. (USSSP) or other copyright holders. USSSP is not affiliated with BSA or WOSM and does not speak on behalf of BSA or WOSM. Opinions expressed on these web pages are those of the web authors. You can support this website with in two ways: Visit Our Trading Post at or make a donation by clicking the button below.
(U.S. Scouting Service Project Donation)

(Ruth Lyons Memorial Donations)