The tick season started strong in March when warm weather brought them out, but cooler temperatures have slowed them for now.
"I haven't heard that (the season) is expected to be worse," said Jon Beam, senior naturalist at PPL's Montour Preserve in Danville. "Early on, it was bad. Around Montour County, it has calmed down since March."
Lack of rain could be the cause.
Linda Wales, of Millerton, has experienced the multitude of problems that Lyme disease can cause.
"Ticks usually like wetter spring conditions," Beam said. "Obviously, we have not had a real wet spring. We had a warm start, which brought them out. The drier conditions might keep them at more of a normal level."
As the temperatures have dropped, ticks drop, too, right down into the vegetation.
"As things warm up, they'll climb back up the plant stems and hang out there and wait for someone or something to come around they can climb onto," he said.
Tick season usually runs from the spring to the fall, but it depends on weather.
"(Last year), I saw ticks into November," Beam said. "There's usually a hard frost in October and that knocks the population down for the winter months."
Tick ID and removal
Deer ticks carry Lyme disease, which can be cured in the early stages, but untreated can progress to late-stage arthritic or nervous system complications requiring more intensive therapy.
Nine out of 10 deer ticks in the state carry Lyme disease.
"A lot of the ticks I notice are dog ticks or wood ticks," Beam said. "They're much larger. They can carry diseases, but not Lyme disease."
The American dog tick typically has white markings on its back in a shield-like shape behind its head. In addition to being found on dogs, they will attach to other mammals, including humans.
The deer tick actually is the black-legged tick, which is smaller than a dog tick and has a dark body and black legs.
If a tick is found embedded in a person's or an animal's skin, it should be removed as soon as possible.
Some devices specially designed for tick removal have two prongs and slide over the tick's head, then can be gently used to pull out the tick. Tweezers also work.
"Gently tug at it until it releases," Beam said. "It's not always easy. If you squeeze too tight, contents of its digestive system can get in your bloodstream. That's where the bacteria would be. You can still get Lyme disease that way."
The best way to avoid Lyme disease is to check for ticks, especially when going off-trail.
"Ticks don't attach themselves right away," Beam said. "If they get checked within a couple of hours of walking, chances are they'll find the ticks and remove them and not have a problem."
Ticks can wait up to 24 hours before they attach and start feeding on blood.
Those most at risk are people who spend time outdoors, especially off of manicured areas. Some of the precautions people can take are tucking pants into their boots, wearing light-colored clothing so they're easier to spot and treating clothing with natural or manmade insecticides that repel ticks.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread through the bite of the blacklegged, or deer, tick.
In 2010, 94 percent of Lyme disease cases were reported from 12 states, including Pennsylvania and New York, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pennsylvania is a leading state for Lyme disease, said Christine Cronkright, director of communications for the state Department of Health.
"We experience thousands of cases every year - anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 - especially in younger age groups," Cronkright said. "Many cases are not appropriately diagnosed in the earliest stages of illness when treatment is easiest to administer and most effective."
Such was the case several years ago when a Tioga County woman was infected after working on her property.
After preparing her flower beds in 1995, Linda Wales, of Millerton, noticed a small black spot on her arm. She thought it was a boil and it disappeared after a few days.
However, it was followed by a ringworm type rash, which also disappeared after a few weeks. Shortly after, she had what she thought was the flu. In October of that year, the American Red Cross rejected her blood for hepatitis.
"Well, that explained the flu-like symptoms," Wales said.
Unexplainable pain followed. In December, she went to the emergency room for chest pains that traveled down her arm, but tests showed her healthy. In March, she tested positive for mononucleosis.
Wales has endured numbness in the left side of her face, excruciating back and neck pain, joint pain, muscle twitching, shortness of breath, sinus and lung infections, small white lesions on her back and shoulders and more problems.
"Every day things like pouring a cup of coffee, hanging clothes, clapping my hands and vacuuming, caused excruciating pain," Wales said.
Every time she had a new symptom, she was referred to another doctor and another set of tests would be conducted.
"When I was 35 years old, a doctor told me I was just getting older; in other words, I should just accept what was happening to me," Wales said. "During this time, I would be so exhausted that I could not drive myself home from work and would need to take a nap before eating supper because I would not have the energy to chew my food or hold my head up. I very seldom did anything more than work and sleep. I never did believe that my problems were all in my head; however, for a time I lost all faith in the medical community."
Because she did not know about Lyme disease, she never connected that the black spot and ringed rash could be the cause of the ailments, so she never mentioned it to the doctors.
In February 2002, her chiropractor insisted a primary care physician order a Lyme test, the ELISA, which came back positive.
The local doctors did not know much about the disease, so she went to one in Philadelphia. She visited there every four weeks, receiving intramuscular injections of antibiotics and several oral antibiotics from June 2002 to October 2005.
A flu shot in October 2006 reactivated the disease until Dec. 1, 2009. By February 2011, it came back again until February this year.
"Before getting sick, I was not involved in volunteer activities or my community," Wales said. "My illness has given me a compassion for others. I am no longer too proud to ask for help and realize people even appreciate you thinking enough of them to ask."
In 2004, she began a local support group, NYPenn Lyme Disease Support Group, and held monthly meetings for three years.
In 2009, the group combined with another to include the northcentral region of Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York. A Hope 4 Lyme Inc., a local not-for-profit, was founded to help relieve those suffering from the effects of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases and to promote community awareness.
The organization is open to anyone suffering from Lyme or other tick-borne diseases, caregivers, children, friends and family who have questions and are looking for answers.
The fifth annual Lyme Walk will be held May 12 at Chapel Park, 83 Personius Road, Pine City, N.Y. Registration starts at noon and the walk will begin at 1 p.m.
For more information about the organization, its meetings and the walk, visit the http://ahope4lyme.webs. com website.