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Tick Talk - Sonoma County is TICK Country


Tick Talk - Sonoma County
is TICK Country

By Karen Miller

Unlike the Northeast, ticks are active year around in California. One can get Lyme Disease and other tick-borne diseases at any time of the year. Unfortunately, we don’t really know how many of us get sick each year. Sonoma County had 848 cases of Lyme disease in dogs last year. (You can find this information on the Companion Animal Parasite Council website.) We do know that have some areas of very high infection rates in ticks. Annadel, for example, has pretty consistently high infection rates. Coastal areas are considered high risk areas. Yet Sonoma County Health Services only counted 7 confirmed human cases last year. That seems to be a pretty big discrepancy. Until we get a better grasp on human infection rates, your best bet is to learn how to protect yourself.

You know all those cute little squirrels you see everywhere? They are the main host animal for Lyme disease. Other host animals: wood rats and some types of birds. That is just for Borrelia- the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever. We also have six other diseases that we know about. The host animals for those other diseases are have not all been identified. Some diseases take many hours or possibly days to transmit, others are passed to you within a few hours. 

This county is endemic for 7 known tick-borne diseases. One tick bite can pass on more than one disease. The immature- nymphal- ticks are more likely to transmit diseases in California and they are very hard to spot. They are the size of a poppy seed.  Most people in this area with tick- borne diseases didn’t see the tick that bit them. You can go to the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District website to learn how to protect yourself from tick-bites. I treat my entire outfit (shoes, socks, pants, shirt and hat) with a product that contains permethrin. Once it dries it is non-toxic, unless you are a tick. Be sure to check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks after you have been out in tick habitat. Look up other ways to protect yourself. These diseases can get into your brain and make you very, very sick for a long time- you really don’t want to get any of them!

We live in a beautiful area and it is a joy to get outside and enjoy nature. Just take sensible precautions and don’t get bit!

Karen Miller lives in Healdsburg and is a patient advocate and a facilitator on the Tick Borne Diseases Advisory Group, Lyme Aid in Santa Rosa.