Ixodes scapularis Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
Deer ticks are found on vegetation along trails and paths where they wait for an unwary animal to come by and provide them with a blood meal. Adult deer ticks feed mostly on large mammals like raccoons and white-tailed deer. Attached ticks are females, and if they are left undisturbed, they feed on their host for six or seven days and end up looking like a fat, gray raisin. When it has eaten its fill the tick detaches itself and drops to the ground where it will eventually lay eggs.
Deer ticks sometimes carry Lyme disease, and their bite can transmit the bacteria to humans. However, Lyme disease is most common in the Northeastern US and occurs only occasionally in the southern US. Though 366 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Florida between 1999 and 2005, fewer than 20 cases a year were thought to have actually been contracted in the State. Most people reporting symptoms had actually acquired the disease in the Northeastern US.
If a tick bites you, watch the site of the bite closely for the characteristic Lyme disease bulls-eye rash that often appears within 1-2 weeks. Other symptoms of Lyme disease include flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, headache and fatigue. If you have any of these symptoms it is best to see a doctor; the early stages of Lyme disease are commonly treated with a course of antibiotics and patients usually recover rapidly and completely.
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