One of the less obvious risks of antenna and tower work is that of acquiring
infectious disease from ticks and other pests that we encounter in the
field. I've attached below an excellent mongraph forwarded to me via the
International Society for Infectious Diseases email listserve. This
excellent article is originally attributed to Mark Demko of
An important point that is missing from this article is that there are
several other diseases that people and animals can acquire from ticks (eg.
Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Anaplasma (formerly Ehrlichea), and more).
Professionally as a veterinarian, I have a much more conservative opinion as
to how long a tick must be attached to a mammal to be of concern. While the
article below cites 36 hours, I feel that 24 hours or longer is definitely
of concern, and 12 hours is in the gray zone. Note that ticks you remove
from yourself can be saved for PCR testing, which can determine if the tick
itself carries a particluar disease. Thus, if you remove a tick from
yourself do not throw it out.save it in a jar just in case your doctor (or
the health department) wants it tested.
I hope that this safety information has been of value to you!
73, Scott W3TX
<<From spending time with family to getting exercise and enjoying the beauty
of nature, there are many reasons to love the outdoors. One thing that
people who enjoy outdoor recreation don't love, however, are ticks. But
thanks to the mild winter [2011-2012], the disease-carrying arachnids are
already out in full force this year .
In this area, the biggest threat from ticks, specifically the blacklegged
tick (_Ixodes scapularis_), also known as the deer tick, is Lyme disease,
which can be transmitted when a tick carrying the disease passes it on to a
human after attaching itself to feed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than
250 000 cases of Lyme disease have been reported in the United States since
2000. In 2009, the last year for which complete statistics are available,
New Jersey had 4598 confirmed cases -- its most ever in one year -- while
Pennsylvania had 4950.
"The incidence of Lyme disease has increased in Pennsylvania over the past
decade," said St Luke's University Health Network director of healthcare
epidemiology and infection prevention Dr Kara Mascitti.
"It's unclear if that is due to an increased recognition and diagnosis of
the disease, or if there is an actual increase in the number of ticks in the
While ticks normally become active in spring, this year's  mild winter
has brought them out earlier than normal. Although the adults, which are
actively feeding now, can transmit the disease, CDC reports that most humans
are infected by immature ticks known as nymphs, which feed spring through
When it comes to preventing tick bites, there are several precautions a
person can take. The best way to minimize the threat of Lyme disease is to
keep contact with the bloodsuckers to a minimum. "This can be done by
avoiding places where they are most likely found, including wooded and bushy
areas, or areas with high grass. If you do anticipate contact with one of
these high risk areas, it's important to wear a hat, long sleeves and pants,
and to use insect repellant containing 20 per cent or more DEET on the
exposed skin," Mascitti said. "It's also important to do a thorough tick
check when returning indoors to remove any ticks that might have gotten on
you despite these measures.
Showering immediately upon returning indoors can also wash away ticks that
haven't yet attached to the skin."
When doing a visual inspection for ticks, no area should be overlooked.
"Because ticks like hard-to-see areas of the body, you should pay close
attention to the armpits, in and around the ears, behind the knees, in the
groin and underneath the hair," Mascitti said. "It's also important to check
any gear, pets, etc. that may have accompanied you outside, as these can
carry ticks inside your home that can later make their way onto your body."
As for clothing and gear that comes in contact with the body such as
backpacks, it's a good idea to treat them with a permethrin-based product
designed to kill and repel ticks. CDC also recommends putting clothes in the
dryer for one hour on high heat to kill any ticks that may be on them. While
turkey hunters, anglers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts know how easy
it is to pick up ticks while moving through woods or brush, the reality is
that each year countless unsuspecting individuals are bitten by the
arachnids while they are working, gardening or playing right in their own
backyards. To help reduce the risk of picking up ticks in the yard, CDC
recommends people take preventive actions such as mowing the lawn regularly,
removing leaf litter from their yards and clearing tall grasses and brush
from around their houses and the edge of yards. If you do find a tick on
you, the best way to remove it is to grab it as close to the skin as
possible and pull up with a steady, consistent motion. Afterward, wash your
hands and the bite area thoroughly with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Experts say a tick must be attached for at least 36 hours for the Lyme
disease bacterium to be transmitted. If you do exhibit signs of the disease,
it's important to consult your family doctor or an infectious disease
specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. In most cases, antibiotics
are prescribed to treat Lyme disease, and, according to CDC, patients who
take the appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of the disease usually
make a rapid and complete recovery. "Early Lyme disease usually presents
like a "summertime flu", with headache and body aches, fevers and chills,
and fatigue," Mascitti said. "Often people will notice the classic
bull's-eye-like red rash."
That rash, called erythema migrans, as well as the other symptoms, will
usually occur within a few days to a month after a person is bitten by an
infected tick. And while the rash can be an indicator that Lyme disease is
present, it isn't noticeable in every case. "The bull's-eye rash is a
tell-tale sign, but, unfortunately, it is found in only 70-80 per cent of
cases," Mascitti said. "Or, if it occurs, it can occur in an area where it
might not be immediately noticed, like the back, armpit or under the
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