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6 months ago

WATCH OUT: Disease-carrying ticks widespread across Alabama

As a turkey hunter, I am keenly aware of the threat posed by sneaking through the Alabama woods. And I’m not talking about the danger of encountering a member of the serpent family.

I’m talking about something much, much smaller but possibly just as harmful.

It’s the family of ticks that turkey hunters dread each spring, and the prevalence of disease-carrying ticks is becoming more evident each year.

Emily Merritt, a research associate at Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, has been working on a project, with funding assistance provided from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (Pittman-Robertson) through the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF), since 2015 to determine the species of ticks in Alabama and their ranges.

Merritt said a study on ticks and tick-related illnesses hadn’t been done since the early 1990s, and it was very limited in scope.

The study that started in 2015 was to update and expand that research to include field collection sites for ticks.

“We collected ticks once a month for a year,” Merritt said. “We were all over the state. We also worked with WFF wildlife biologists to collect ticks off of deer for all three years and with the USDA (Department of Agriculture) to get ticks off of raccoons for two years.”

The most commonly collected ticks included the Lone Star tick, the Gulf Coast tick, the black-legged tick (aka deer tick) and the American dog tick.

The Lone Star tick is the most common tick in Alabama and can transmit a host of diseases, including the alpha-gal red meat allergy, Southern rash disease (a Lyme-like illness), tick paralysis and spotted fever diseases that are closely related to Rocky Mountain spotted fever. A white dot in the middle of the tick’s back is the reason for the Lone Star name.

“We found that the Lone Star tick and the Gulf Coast tick are the most aggressive,” Merritt said. “They hunt down their prey. Some ticks sit and wait, but the Lone Star and Gulf Coast ticks will actively seek out hosts. Turkey hunters complain that when they’re hunting they can actually see ticks crawling to them. Usually, that’s the Lone Star tick. I’ve also heard it called the turkey tick.”

Merritt said the Lone Star tick is found primarily in hardwood stands, while the Gulf Coast tick, which is a little larger and transmits similar diseases, is found primarily in more open areas with shrubs.

“The Gulf Coast tick likes areas like new clear-cuts, and they are found in controlled burn areas,” she said. “These are harsh, hot environments where you don’t often find ticks, but the Gulf Coast tick loves it.”

The tick that has gained the most notoriety because of its association with Lyme disease is the black-legged tick.

“It is the main culprit for spreading Lyme disease, but it also can spread other illnesses, like anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and tularemia,” Merritt said. “We find black-legged ticks equally in pine and hardwood stands.”

Merritt said the American dog tick also can transmit all the diseases associated with the other tick species.

“As the name implies, they bite dogs a lot,” she said. “We find them in people’s backyards, especially if they’ve got a nice, green lawn and a nearby wooded area. Obviously, people’s dogs are at risk. If their kids play in the backyard or if you’re gardening or landscaping in the yard, people can come in contact with the American dog tick.”

At one time, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) insisted that Lyme disease was limited to the Northeast U.S., with a concentration of the disease around Lyme, Conn. In recent years, the presence of Lyme-like disease (Lyme borreliosis) has been acknowledged in Alabama.

“Lyme disease refers to one specific bacteria,” Merritt said. “Lyme borreliosis indicates there is a host of similarly related bacteria that cause illness in Alabama.

“Another thing we hear from doctors is there is no Rocky Mountain spotted fever here. That’s not true at all. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has been tracking this. The problem with the CDC and other health agencies is they don’t consider it much of an issue down here. But it definitely is an issue.”

In fact, a graphic from ADPH shows that spotted fever-type illnesses have skyrocketed in recent years compared to the other tick-related illnesses.

“People are getting sick from ticks down here,” Merritt said. “So it’s counterproductive for those agencies to say it’s rare. If you are an outdoors person your chances of coming in contact with these ticks is pretty decent. There is definitely a risk.

“One of the reasons I’m trying to get the word out, and when we publish our research (later this year), is we really need doctors to recognize that these tick-borne illnesses are here in Alabama.”

One aspect of Merritt’s research includes a survey conducted through the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The survey was sent to hunters and anglers to ask about their experiences, knowledge of and costs associated with ticks and tick-borne illnesses.

For those who spend time outdoors, Merritt said the project research found that the most effective deterrent for tick attachment is a spray that contains permethrin.

“You don’t apply it to your skin,” Merritt said. “You spray it on your clothes, boots, hats, socks, backpacks, basically any fabric. When I go camping, I spray my tents and tarps with it. Depending on what brand you get, it will last anywhere from two weeks or two washings to six weeks and six washings.

“More so than bug spray, we found that the products with permethrin significantly reduced the amount of ticks we encountered. It also works well on other biting insects like chiggers and mosquitoes.”

Although the likelihood of contact with ticks is higher during the warmer months, Merritt said the insects are active year-round in Alabama.

“Be on the lookout, not only on pets, but your children, your loved ones and yourself,” she said. “If you go outside, there is the potential to come in contact with ticks. When you come back inside, check your clothes and gear immediately to see if there are any crawling ticks on you, your pets or children. Then take it a step further and check your body thoroughly for ticks. If you need to use a mirror or a partner, do that. Ticks can hide in all sorts of areas that are hard to see.

“And the longer a tick is attached, the better the chances are to get a tick-borne illness if that tick is harboring that illness.”

If you do find a tick attached to your body, Merritt said don’t haphazardly try to remove the insect.

“Don’t try to pick it off with your fingers or burn it off with a match or anything like that,” she said. “Get tweezers and get as close to the skin as you possibly can. Firmly grasp the tick where it attached to your body and start pulling with steady, even pressure until it eventually releases. It might be uncomfortable and a little painful, but you want to get that tick off as soon as you can.”

Merritt said tick-borne illnesses may cause symptoms as early as a couple of days, but symptoms could also occur as late as a couple of months after the exposure.

“If you start to experience flu-like symptoms, like aches and pain, or you see an expanding red rash, sometimes spotted and sometimes circular, you need to see a doctor,” she said. “It’s normal for a bite to be red, but if you see an expanding rash or it seems to be spreading to other parts of your body, that’s a clear indication that you do have a tick-borne illness.”

Merritt said if the tick is found it can be saved for testing by taping it to an index card, placing it in a freezer bag and storing it in the freezer.

“But don’t wait for test results,” she said. “If you think you have a tick-borne illness, your doctor should go ahead and start treatment. For most tick-borne illnesses, that involves treatment with antibiotics. For tick paralysis, it’s removal of the tick. For the alpha-gal allergy there is no treatment. You just have to avoid eating red meat, and that’s terrible.”

For more information, go here or this website, the Alabama Lyme Disease Association’s website.

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

2 hours ago

Will Ainsworth slams Democrats for Kay Ivey health ‘October surprise’: ‘Sick,’ ‘despicable’

ENTERPRISE — On Tuesday, a report surfaced questioning the circumstances of a hospital visit then-Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey made in Colorado in 2015. That has led some to suggest the resurfacing of the story was part of a so-called  “October surprise” deployed by Democrats against the incumbent governor and intended to better Ivey’s general election opponent Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox’s chances in next month’s contest.

Ivey has disputed the report in an appearance at the Tuscaloosa Republican Party Lincoln-Reagan Dinner later in the day and called it “plum sad” Maddox’s campaign would resort to such tactics.

On Wednesday after speaking to the Republican Women of Coffee County at the Enterprise Country Club, Republican lieutenant gubernatorial nominee Will Ainsworth also criticized Democrats believed to be behind the report.

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Ainsworth told Yellowhammer News the Ivey report and the weaponization of it was part of the Democratic Party’s “playbook,” and he likened it to what Brett Kavanaugh faced during his U.S. Supreme Court associate justice confirmation process before the U.S. Senate over the past several weeks.

“That’s just the Democrat’s new playbook,” Ainsworth said. “I mean, if you look at what they did to Kavanaugh, what they’re doing to Kay Ivey – they just try to destroy people based on lies. I think that’s sick. I think that’s despicable. I think Governor Ivey is in great health and certainly doing a tremendous job as a leader. I think it’s terrible what they’re trying to do, but they’re desperate, and that’s the only tactic they can go back to.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

5 hours ago

The sky is holding up just fine in Alabama

“The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” cried Chicken Little in the ancient European folk tale about a manic chicken who believes the world is coming to an end. The expression “the sky is falling” has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a hysterical or inaccurate belief that calamity is looming.

Twenty-five centuries later, lets cue, stage left…Walt Maddox.   The Mayor’s recent stump speech to a business luncheon in Birmingham was a cavalcade of doom and gloom.  A melancholy prognosis based on a miserable catalogue of what the liberal mayor believes is wrong with Alabama.  The Democrat from Tuscaloosa has hitched his caboose to the Chicken Little express.  Destination “Glum Town, USA.”

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Maddox told the suit and tie audience that he fears the millions of Alabamians who drive over the state’s roads face death every day, simply by crossing a bridge.  By his account Alabama’s bridges will collapse at any minute, killing commuters in droves.

The Democratic nominee, wants to bring Obamacare to the state – as his number one priority.  Maddox inferred if Alabama took the “free money,” the state could “afford to build a new UAB, think about that’.  We did think about that Walt, the money isn’t free.  Cash doesn’t fall from the money tree to be scooped up by liberals paying for socialist policies.  He believes “…there are literally two Alabamas.”  Sorry, you are wrong Walt.

While on the subject of free money – a recurring theme throughout the Maddox pitch – he wants to provide every felon released from Alabama’s jails a free iphone, so they can get about their business.  Not sure why, or who pays, but this smacks of the Obama Phone vote buying scandal.

Maddox is endorsed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun group “Mom’s Demand Action.”  Despite assurances to the contrary, Maddox toes the liberal anti gun line and is fundamentally opposed to the Second Amendment.  “[L]et me make my position clear. I will never favor taking any existing constitutional right away from any American unless we, as a people, come to the conclusion that restraint of some rights helps ensure the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by all.”  Ummm, ok Mr. Mayor.

Sure, Walt Maddox is erudite, speaks without notes and is photogenic.  But Bobby Kennedy he is not.  There was no uplifting message.   No inspirational vision for Alabama.  There was no call to action.  Instead there was a pall of pessimism.  As Mr. Maddox trashed Alabama’s constitution, he conveyed despondency.  The Democrat downplayed the strong state economy that has a record number of Alabamians working in the state. Dismissed Governor Ivey’s 2019 education budget, the largest in Alabama in a decade.  He seemed disinterested in Alabama’s historically low unemployment.  But he did want to teach felons how to work their new iphones….so there is that.  Seem’s Mayor Chicken Little is afraid of a leaf falling on his tail.

LCDR Greg “GW” Keeley, USN (ret) is the Managing Partner of Dreadnaught. Keeley is a contributor to The Hill, Washington Times, Daily Caller, Fox News. He is a veteran of Iraq and, Afghanistan and served in the U.S Congress as Senior Advisor to the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, the Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee and the Chairman of the Republican Senate Policy Committee.

7 hours ago

The “October Surprise” in the governor’s race is something we heard about a year ago?

If this is really the final push for Walt Maddox to get his campaign’s “Kay Ivey is sick” narrative into the news, they may want to try again.

The Alabama Political Reporter published a “bombshell” is just a regurgitation of an old story. Their report includes comments from the former head of ALEA, Spencer Collier, who is currently suing former Governor Robert Bentley and is probably unhappy that Governor Ivey’s office has spent money defending Bentley because the law requires it.

Again, we already heard all of this, from this same outlet, in 2017. Ivey denied it then, too, Collier was part of this denial.

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Pretty damning? I guess.

Or not. Kim Chandler from the Associated Press used the APR report as a jump-off into a story on Ivey’s health. The big takeaway? Ivey’s doctor calls BS.

Ivey said she had altitude sickness during the trip and released a letter from her doctor saying he saw no evidence of a mini-stroke when he examined her a day after her discharge and that hospital tests in Colorado were also negative.

I guess the Collier angle is new, but is this it? The Governor is sick, trust us? Her opponent says she is too sick to be Governor, so vote for him?

There are no public incidents, except clear deception by APR’s Josh Moon and NBC’s affiliate in Mobile portraying some meltdown. There have been no spills, no stumbles, and don’t pretend she not out there on the trail because she is.

If I believed she was too sick to be Governor, why would I vote for a guy I disagree with on most things instead of voting for her and a Lieutenant Governor from the same party with the same general views?

This is Roy Moore 2.0, she must be viewed as unacceptable so you have to vote for the other guy regardless of what he believes.

To further highlight how sad this all is, al.com’s Kyle Whitmire finally got around to writing about how disastrous Walt Maddox’s first campaign ad was and declaring the gubernatorial election over. Whitmire used the APR story in his piece, too, talking about how it is all too little too late.

Don’t bank on that. This is literally the only thing Maddox and his media allies have going for them.

This will get much worse.

Yes, it is October, but this is hardly a surprise.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

7 hours ago

Company seeking to fill 850 jobs between two South Alabama locations on Thursday

According to a press release published by NBC 15, one company is seeking to fill a massive amount of jobs between two of its locations in southwest Alabama on Thursday.

Alorica, “the largest provider of customer experiences to North American consumers,” will attempt to hire 550 employees at its site in Saraland and 300 employees at its Mobile facility.

This comes as a part of the company’s first “National Recruiting Day” spanning more than 80 sites across the United States and Canada on Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

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The expansive initiative will focus on growing Alorica’s existing global workforce of more than 100,000.

For those who are unable to attend the hiring event this Thursday, prospective employees can still apply for a position online or by using the company’s walk-in hours Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Alorica’s two Mobile-area locations are:

  • 727 US Hwy 43 (Saraland Blvd.), Saraland, AL 36571
  • 5441 HWY 90 W Suite 1, Mobile, AL 36619

Find out more about the company here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Ivey’s doctor confirms the governor is in good health

The primary care physician for Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday released a letter confirming the governor is in good health and refuting a report alleging that she had suffered a ministroke in April 2015.

Dr. Brian Elrod of Montgomery, who has been Ivey’s doctor for “many years,” wrote that the governor had indeed been hospitalized at a conference in Colorado that month in 2015, however “extensive” tests conducted at the hospital “were all negative.” Additionally, Elrod himself examined Ivey the day after she was released from the hospital, saying that “I saw no evidence of a transient ischemic attack (ministroke).”

More tests later that year, including an EKG and echocardiogram, were deemed “unremarkable” and “normal.” Then, a cardiologist visit in December 2015 “also showed no new concerns” and “her nuclear imaging study in January of 2016 was likewise unremarkable and suggested ‘a relatively low risk of cardiovascular events.'”

Elrod added that he could not comment “on what condition may have led to her hospitalization in April of 2015,” but that the governor’s health since then “has remained good with no indication of increased cardiovascular risk.”

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In vintage fashion Tuesday night, Ivey responded to a question on the allegations about her health with gusto while hitting at her Democratic opponent, Walt Maddox, who is trailing in the polls by 20 – 25 percent.

“The letter I released today from my doctor clearly confirms what I’ve been saying all along: I’m in good health,” Ivey said.

On the timing of the allegations against her, she added, “It makes me have to assume that Mayor Maddox is desperate because his liberal record is not connecting with Alabamians. Besides, y’all covered this issue a year ago.”

The allegation that Ivey had suffered a ministroke in 2015 was first published last year by the Alabama Political Reporter (APR), with it gaining little to no traction. Now, with Tuesday marking exactly 21 days until the November 6 general election, APR republished the same allegations.

When questioned directly whether she had experienced “stroke-like symptoms,” Ivey responded by saying “altitude illness, they called it.”

The reporter then asked Ivey if she is confident that she is in good health.

“You’re right about that, friend,” Ivey quipped. “No step too high for a high-stepper.”

This comes after Elrod in May released a general letter about the governor, writing that “Governor Ivey has had physicals for the past 15 years, and she is in excellent health.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn