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Ticks and Lyme Disease

Ixodes scapularis

Reprinted from Mount Diablo Review, Summer 2007

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Western Blacklegged tick | CDC

Ticks are a fact of life in all Bay Area wilderness parks, including Mount Diablo year around, in various stages of development. The Western Black-Legged Tick can act as a vector transmitting Lyme disease resident in its digestive tract as it feeds. The first cases of Lyme disease were reported in California in 1978. The adult tick has a dark head, a dark reddish brown body which can be as small as 1/8”. The eight-legged nymph is 1/16” while a six-legged larva is as small as the period at the end of this sentence. All of the stages need a blood meal.

If this type of tick attaches itself to you, there is a small possibility of contracting Lyme disease. Only a small percentage carries it. If the tick is removed within 24 hours, the risk of the disease is greatly reduced.It is wise during and after any outing into the wilderness to undertake a few simple precautions:

  • Wear light colors so ticks can be seen before attaching themselves to skin.

  • Wear long-sleeved clothing and pants tucked into socks.

  • Use approved repellents on shoes, clothing, and exposed skin.

  • Avoid brushing against tall grass and weeds.

  • Occasionally check your clothing and skin for ticks during and after your hike. At home, when showering, check over your body.

Note: You will usually feel the tick crawling on you before it embeds itself. If a tick is embedded, do not apply alcohol, heat, petroleum jelly or other substance to the tick. 

Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District recommends grasping the tick as close to your skin as possible, with fine-tipped tweezers. With a slow and steady motion, pull it away from your skin. Dab the area with an antiseptic, tick fluids can be infected so if it gets crushed wash the bite area and your hands with soap.


Place the tick in a dated container such as a sealed plastic bag along with a MOISTENED tissue. It can be taken to the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District in Concord for identification and testing. This is a free service (your tax dollars pay for it). However, if the tick is dead, the process is more complicated and a charge will be levied. Call them at 925-685-9301 for further details. 

If you later develop any symptoms such as a rash, joint pains, fever. consult a physician, giving information about the tick and its identification. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics.

Free informative brochures on the subject are available weekends in the MDIA Visitor Center at the Mitchell Canyon entrance or you can contact the Concord office of the vector control at 925-685-9301.

Please, do not let worries about exposure affect the pleasure of visiting our parks.

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