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Prevent Tickborne Disease

The best way to prevent tickborne diseases is to prevent tick bites. In Vermont, most tickborne illnesses occur between the early spring and late fall – the time of year when blacklegged ticks are active.

Limiting your exposure to ticks, using an effective repellent and checking your body for ticks are just some of the ways you can decrease the risk of contracting a tickborne disease.

How Ticks Find Their Hosts

Ticks search for a host from the tips of low-lying vegetation and shrubs, not from trees. Ticks can’t fly or jump. Instead, they wait for a host, resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs in a position known as “questing”. While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their lower legs. They hold their upper pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb onto a passing host. When a host brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard. It then finds a suitable place to bite its host.

Information Courtesy of Vermont Department of Health

Types of Ticks in Vermont

Thirteen different species of ticks have been identified in Vermont (click here for the full list). Of these 13 species, five are known to bite humans and four of those five can transmit diseases.

Over 99% of all tickborne diseases reported to the Vermont Department of Health are caused by only one tick: the blacklegged tick.

Information and images about the five most common Vermont ticks can be found below.

Information Courtesy of Vermont Department of Health
Name Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis) or Deer Tick
Distribution Blacklegged ticks can be found throughout Vermont.

  • Where woods/fields meet lawn
  • Wooded areas
  • Tall brush/grass
  • Under leaves
  • Under ground cover (plants) in yard
  • Around stone walls and woodpiles where mice & other small mammals live
  • Deer ticks can also be found in small numbers on cut/raked lawns or sports fields

Transmits Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus disease, and Borrelia miyamotoi disease.
Hosts White-footed mouse, deer mouse, chipmunks, shrews, white-tailed deer, domestic animals, and humans
Active In Vermont, blacklegged tick activity fluctuates throughout the year. After laying low during the cold winter months, these ticks usually become active in late March or early April. Their peak activity typically occurs in May and June when nymphal ticks are looking for a host. Tick activity increases once again in October and November when adult ticks are looking for another host before cold winter temperatures set in once again.

Although blacklegged tick activity typically follows this pattern, it is important to note that these ticks might be encountered at any time of year when the temperature is above freezing. 

Pathogen Prevalence In Blacklegged Ticks in Vermont

The Vermont Department of Health has collaborated with colleagues at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Lyndon State College to determine the prevalence of disease in Vermont’s blacklegged tick population. Over 2,000 ticks were collected and tested between 2013 and 2016.

Anaplasma phagophytocilium Anaplasmosis 7.0%
Babesia microti Babesiosis 0.8%
Borrelia burgdorferi Lyme Disease 52.9%


Over 60% of the ticks collected as part of this initiative tested positive for at least one disease. A small sample of these ticks was also tested for Powassan virus. Approximately 1% tested positive for Powassan virus.

Blacklegged ticks can carry more than one pathogen at the same time. Almost 5% of the ticks tested positive for two or more pathogens. The most commonly found combination (4.0%) found in ticks were the pathogens that cause anaplasmosis and Lyme disease.

Name American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
Distribution  American dog ticks can be found throughout Vermont mostly in grassy fields and other areas with little tree cover. 
Habitat  American dog ticks can be found mostly in grassy fields and other areas with little tree cover. 
Transmits In Vermont the American dog tick can transmit tularemia, but human cases are extremely rare. Both adults and nymphs can transmit tularemia, although nymphs rarely bite humans.
Hosts American Dog Ticks feeds on small rodents and medium-sized wild mammals, domestic cats, dogs and humans
Active From April through September
Name Lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum)
Distribution Lone star ticks are found primarily in southern Vermont.
Habitat The Lone star tick is found in wooded areas, especially young second growth forest with dense underbrush, but it is also found in scrub, meadow margins, hedge rows, cane breaks, and marginal vegetation along rivers and streams.
Transmits The Lone star tick is responsible for transmitting ehrlichiosis in Vermont. Both nymphs and adults can transmit disease. Larvae cannot transmit disease.
Hosts Feeds on squirrels, raccoons, deer, cattle, some bird species, cats, dogs and humans
Active April through September
Name Wood Chuck Tick (Ixodes cookei)
Distribution Woodchuck ticks can be found throughout Vermont.
Habitat Generally found in the burrow of its host animal, rarely found on vegetation
Transmits Powassan virus disease, although this disease is extremely rare in Vermont
Hosts Woodchucks, foxes, skunks, weasels, porcupines, small mammals, some bird species, raccoons, cats, dogs and humans
Active Generally in the summer months
Name Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)
Distribution Brown dog ticks can be found throughout Vermont.
Habitat Generally brown dog ticks can be found wherever humans and dogs live. Unlike other tick species, the brown dog tick is well-suited for living indoors.
Transmits The brown dog tick will bite humans, but there is no evidence that it transmits diseases in Vermont.
Hosts Mostly dogs
Active May be active throughout the year
Information Courtesy of Vermont Department of Health, and
US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
The following Information is courtesy of
The Vermont Department of Health

The best way to protect yourself is to know the facts about tickborne diseases in Vermont. The Health Department website provides evidence-based information on these important issues.

Ticks can live in a variety of habitats, but they prefer wooded and bushy areas with high grass, brush and leaf litter. If you enter an area where ticks are likely to live, try to avoid direct contact with the surrounding vegetation. For instance, if you are hiking stay in the center of the trail where the grass is low and the underbrush is cut back.

Ticks attach to a host, such as a human or animal, by positioning themselves at the tip of a blade of grass or on the edge of a leaf low to the ground. Here they wait with their front legs stretched out. Once a host walks past and brushes up against the vegetation where the tick is waiting, they use their outstretched legs to latch on to skin, clothing, or hair.

Ticks do not jump onto their hosts like fleas. They also do not drop down onto their hosts from leaves high above in trees.

  • Cover up your skin by wearing pants, long sleeves, and long socks. Tucking your pant legs into your socks and tucking your shirt into your pants can help keep ticks on off of your skin.
  • Apply an insect repellent that contains 20-30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing. Do not spray repellent on skin that is covered by clothing.
  • Apply permethrin to your clothes. Permethrin kills ticks on contact and remains protective through several washings. Do not use permethrin on skin.
  • Make sure the repellent you use is registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Click here to access an EPA tool for finding repellents.
  • Remove ticks from your clothes before going indoors.
  • Put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes. The heat and dry conditions can kill blacklegged ticks.
  • Check your body and your child’s body after being outdoors. Use a mirror to look at all parts of your body (armpits, behind ears, groin, etc.) and remove any ticks you find.
  • Shower soon after you come inside.

Remove the tick as soon as you discover it. Removing a tick right away can help prevent tickborne diseases.

If you remove a tick quickly (within 24 hours) you can greatly reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease. It takes some time for the Lyme disease-causing bacteria to move from the tick to the host. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of acquiring disease from it.


Follow the steps below to safely remove ticks from animals and humans.

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers, or one of the many available tick removal tools. Firmly grasp the tick close to the skin. Avoid touching the tick with your bare hands.
  2. With a steady motion, pull straight up until all parts of the tick are removed. Do not twist or jerk the tick. Do not be alarmed if the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin.
  3. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Clean the tick bite with soap and water or use an antiseptic such as iodine scrub or rubbing alcohol.

Watch this video on proper tick removal created by the New York State Department of Health

Symptoms may begin as soon as three days after a tick bite, but can appear as long as 30 days after.

Contact your health care provider if you develop a fever, headache, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue or a rash soon after a tick bite.

Generally, infectious disease experts do not recommend the routine use of antibiotics following a tick bite as a way to prevent Lyme disease. Health care providers might offer patients a single dose of antibiotics after a tick bite when the following conditions are met:

  1. The tick can be identified as a nyphmal or adult blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis),
  2. The tick has been attached for 36 hours or more,
  3. The antibiotic can be given within 72 hours of tick removal,
  4. Antibiotics are not contraindicated, and
  5. Lyme disease is common in the area where the tick bite occurred. If you believe you picked up the tick anywhere in Vermont or neighboring states, this condition would be met.

This type of treatment, called post-exposure prophylaxis, is not recommended as a way to prevent other tickborne diseases in Vermont such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis or ehrlichiosis

Some people are interested in having ticks that they removed from themselves or loved ones tested for various tickborne diseases. The Vermont Department of Health does not recommend tick testing under these circumstances for the following reasons:

  1. You may not have been infected. Even if a tick is infected and tests positive, it may not have transmitted the infection to you.
  2. It might delay treatment. Tick test results take several days and may not be available in time to make a prompt health care decision.
  3. You may have other tick bites that you don’t know about. Most people who are infected with tickborne disease do not recall a tick bite. Therefore, if someone were to develop symptoms of tickborne disease there would be no way to know whether the infection was from a known tick bite or another unknown tick bite. For example, if a tick is tested and the result is negative, you could still have been bitten by another infected tick, not know it, and develop symptoms of tickborne disease.
  4. Tests performed on ticks are not always perfect. All laboratory tests have the possibility of false positive or false negative results. Even with a negative result, people should still monitor themselves for the appearance of a rash, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. If any of these symptoms occur, you should contact your health care provider.

Some private laboratories offer tick testing, but the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets do not collect ticks from the public and test them for tickborne diseases.

clipart image of a tickAvoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.

Did you know?

Adult deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed

Adult deer ticks, or black legged ticks—the ones that can transmit Lyme Disease—are only about the size of a sesame seed, measuring 2.7mm in length.

Ticks hatch from eggs and develop through three active (and blood-feeding) stages: larvae (small: the size of sand grains); nymphs (medium: the size of poppy seeds); adults (large: the size of sesame seeds). If you see them bigger, they’re probably partially-full or full of blood.

"Did You Know" Information Courtesy of National Geographic
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