I grew up here in the Tri-Cities and I remember always being told to watch out for ticks in places like Bateman Island and the Yakima Delta every spring because they were prime tick habitat.
And ticks could give you Lyme disease, I’d heard! But then I did some research …
What I found made me more comfortable and prepared to hike in tick habitat!
Yes, we do have ticks in eastern Washington. But our risk of getting tick-borne diseases is “relatively low” compared to other regions in the U.S., according to the Washington State Department of Health.
Ticks that you’d worry about while day-hiking around here would be in wooded areas with tall grasses and brush – places like the Chamna Natural Preseve or Zintel Canyon.
That being said, some locals do hike in those areas even during tick season.
“We walk year-round in Chamna and Amon (preserves),” said Karen Sowers, president of Tapteal Greenway – a local non-profit conservation group.
“The important thing is taking the normal precautions (long pants tucked into socks/boots, light colored long sleeved shirts, and applying DEET) and doing a thorough tick check after leaving areas with grass, shrubs and trees.”
Not only is our general tick-borne disease risk relatively low here in Tri-Cities, we also don’t get as many cases of Lyme as other regions of the U.S.
“Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States, but is rare in Washington,” the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said on its website.
“Only zero to three Lyme disease cases per year are reported to be infected in Washington,” it added.
Lyme is the most serious tick-borne disease. It can cause an initial flu-like illness and then lead to recurring joint pain, nervous system disorders, or heart disease, the DOH said. A bullseye rash often appears around the bite.
There are other fevers that can be caused by ticks in eastern Washington. But like Lyme, there aren’t that many cases reported in Washington.
They are Tick-borne Relapsing Fever – with one to 12 cases reported in Washington per year, Tularemia – with one to 10 cases reported in Washington per year, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever – with zero to 3 cases reported in Washington per year, the DOH said.
These fevers can cause flu-like illness, the DOH said. Rashes also often appear around bites of other tick-borne diseases too, it added.
Sowers also recommended that dog owners keep their pets on a leash to minimize their opportunity to run off-trail where the risk of exposure to ticks is higher.
“Personally, the physical and mental benefits of being outdoors far outweigh the risk of the ticks to me, particularly when preventative measures can be taken to minimize that risk,” Sowers said.
What do you think?
Would you hike in tick habitat?