It's the season for being outdoors, wearing shorts and playing with animals but that also means it is the season for ticks. Richmond and Columbia counties had two cases of tick borne illnesses in 2013. Some tick species are important to be aware of for health concerns because:

• The bacteria in their saliva can often carry serious diseases,

• Their bites are irritating and can become infected when not taken care of and

• They like to bite you in the most agravating places.

In the Augusta and surrounding areas, there are three tick species that have been known to bite humans and carry very serious diseases. These are the American Dog tick, Black Legged tick and the Lonestar tick.

The American Dog tick is most well-known for carrying a bacteria in its bite that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This disease has a fatality rate of 3-5 percent, mostly occuring in children under 15. Two to four days after being bitten by a tick that is carrying Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, you will start to see symptoms that include a rash starting on the hands and feet, appearing as small, flat, pink spots that does not itch, possible temporary paralysis and typical flu symptoms. Consult your physician if any of these symptoms arises. The American Dog tick has white markings on their backs.

The Black Legged tick is the primary vector of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is also transmitted through the bacteria in the bite of the tick. Symptoms of this disease may include a ringlike swollen rash that occurs at the sight of the tick bite within 3 - 22 days, joint pain and flu-like symptoms. The Black Legged tick is small and has no white markings.

The Lone star tick carries a disease very similar to Lyme disease, it is called the

Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STAR). The rash is an expanding red lesion that occurs at the site of the tick bite and expands to about 3 inches in 7-8 days. Fatigue, headache, fever and muscle pains occur with the rash. The adult female is distinguished by a single white dot on her back.

Ticks do not always carry diseases but their bites can easily become inflamed and itchy when not taken care of properly. Do your best not to itch skin when bitten. Itching will cause further inflamation and will make your skin raw, which will lead to infection and scarring.

Avoidance of ticks is paramount by staying away from their habitats: tall grass, wooded areas, animals kept outside and animal burrows. Apply repellents containing DEET to all exposed skin (except for the face and all clothing). Concentrate on the hotspots on the body for ticks: areas around the neck, wrists, waist and ankles where clothing is open or tight. Wearing long pants and tucking in your shirt are good ways to avoid ticks as well and protect your animals with approved tick pesticides and treat around your house by keeping grass cut short and spraying an approved pesticide. Lastly it's not a bad idea to use permethrin products to treat clothing if you have to work/play in tick habitats.

If you have come in contact with a tick's habitat, be sure to check yourself for ticks or have a friend check for you. Concentrate on the hotspots and if you find a tick on your person, use tweezers to pull it off, pinching as close to your skin as possible, preventing the head and mouth parts being left lodged in your skin. Do not squeeze the tweezers on its abdomen or burn it while it is still in your skin. This will cause the tick to empty all of its possibly infected fluids into your body leading to infection. After removing the tick, smash or burn it.

Taking these steps to fight and avoid ticks, and being able to recognize the signs to tick-borne diseases, will help protect you against serious illness and annoying bites. For more information contact the Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Environmental Health Section at 706-787- 1215 or visit www.cdc. gov/media/matte/2012/05_ ticks.pdf and www.cdc. gov/stari/.