FORT SILL, Okla., May 24, 2018 -- No matter whether the weather's been hot and dry or cool and wet, conditions will be ideal for one particular organism. This happens to be the Year of the Tick.

Hikers say this has been the worst year ever for ticks reports Randy Hale, environmental educator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and administrator of the Let's Hike 2 Facebook page.

Ticks are small bloodsucking arthropods. They are the leading carriers of vector-borne diseases to humans in the United States, second only to mosquitoes worldwide, according to In most circumstances, it is not the tick bite but the toxins, secretions or organisms in the tick's saliva transmitted through the bite that cause disease.

"When you go out to the field, normally you want to check yourself for ticks and make sure you don't have any on you when you get out of the field," said Maj. Sean Davis, environmental health chief for Reynolds Army Health Clinic.

If the tick hasn't been on you for very long and doesn't look as if it's hooked onto you for a blood meal, then you can brush it off. But if the tick is actually doing a blood meal, then you need to make sure the full tick is intact when you remove it. Davis says you can use tweezers to extract the whole tick.

Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick, as this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

Tick bites should be monitored and the ticks themselves saved for identification if symptoms develop.

"Save the tick. Bring it to the clinic. We put the ticks in little bags so we can send them to Army Public Health Command. They get basically diagnosed if they have any diseases," Davis said.

If you don't have a jar, plastic bag or other suitable container, you can wrap the tick inside a piece of tape and bring it in, he said. The important thing is that health officials have the entire tick. They will then grind it down for a DNA test to see if it's carrying a disease. The Public Health Command has a whole list of diseases it looks for.

"If it has a disease, we get contacted back to inform you," Davis said. Not to say that the tick has transmitted a disease because it takes time typically for a tick (to do that), and if you've gone to the field and come right out and found it right then, most likely it didn't (transmit disease) But you still have to go through a process of making sure that you didn't get infected by the tick," Davis said.

Where are you most likely to encounter ticks?

"High grass," he replied.

They can be around trees, too.

If you're thinking, "Why worry?" -- well, here's a list of all the not-so-wonderful diseases you can catch from ticks. Get ready. It's a long one. Some of them can be life-threatening. The following is a list of tick-borne illnesses people may contract. It's courtesy of
-- Anaplasmosis
-- Babesiosis
-- Borrelia Mayamotoi
-- Colorado Tick Fever
-- Ehrlichiosis
-- Heartland virus (maybe -- this is a newer illness found only in Missouri and Tennessee so far. Experts think you can get it from Lone Star ticks but aren't totally sure.)
-- Lyme disease: Probably the most widely known disease from ticks, you get Lyme from blacklegged ticks in the Upper Midwest and Northeast and the western blacklegged tick on the West Coast. In the United States, the tick can give you two different bacteria, each of which causes Lyme disease. Early on, you may get the telltale bull's-eye rash along with flu-like symptoms. If you don't treat Lyme disease, it can lead to severe problems with the brain and nervous system as well as the heart. It's usually treated with antibiotics, and the sooner you start, the better.
-- Powassan virus
-- Red meat allergy
-- Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis
-- Rocky Mountain spotted fever: You can get RMSF from the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick and brown dog tick. Despite the name, it's most common in the Southeast. It usually starts off with a bad headache and high fever. Most people then get a rash that starts on their ankles and wrists and spreads from there. Doctors treat it with antibiotics. For best results, you need to start meds within five days of when symptoms show up. If it is not treated, RMSF is life-threatening. It damages your small blood vessels, which can cause swelling in the brain, and lungs.
-- Southern tick-associated rash illness
-- Tick-borne relapsing fever
-- Tularemia: You get this from a dog tick, wood tick or lone star tick pretty much anywhere across the country. The most common symptoms are high fever and an open, painful sore where you were bitten. It can be life-threatening, but it's treatable with antibiotics.
-- 364D rickettsiosis