CALIFORNIA — Ticks carrying Lyme disease have been discovered to be more prevalent on California beaches than researchers previously thought, according to a new study.

The study was published in April, after four years of research in the Bay Area.

“This shouldn’t be a deterrent for getting out into the beautiful Bay Area outdoors,” said the study’s lead author, Dan Salkeld, a research ecologist at Colorado State University, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The thing to take away from this is to be aware that ticks are out there. When you go out hiking or spending the day outside on the coast, check yourself for ticks. Wear repellent if you can.”

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Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle: Lyme-carrying ticks thriving on California coast, study finds

The pesky, blood-sucking arachnids typically thrive in the state’s tall grass and moist oak woodlands, but the study revealed that other habitats, such as coastal areas, “may harbor a surprising diversity of tick-borne pathogens.”

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Salkeld worked with his fellow researchers to collect around 3,000 Western black-legged ticks.

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease, but the ones that do typically contract the bacterium by biting other animals such as gray squirrels.

The discovery of these disease-carrying ticks was puzzling for biologists because it is unclear exactly which animals could be spreading the disease in coastal areas.

Western black-legged ticks were found in Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

While much of the research was conducted in the Bay Area, researchers said there are also hot spots for these ticks in Malibu, Manhattan Beach and Newport Beach, the Los Angeles Times reported.

While researchers assure there’s no need to panic, it is always a good idea to prevent bites by wearing tick repellent while outside and checking for ticks after returning indoors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 476,000 people contract Lyme disease each year. The disease is far more common on the East Coast. Early symptoms include a rash, fever, chills, muslce and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes.

After returning from hiking or a day at the beach, health officials urge residents to check for ticks. Pets should also be searched for ticks before reentering the home as the tiny arachnids like to burrow into pet fur.

If you discover one that’s already attached itself to your skin, don’t panic. Here’s how to remove a tick, according to the CDC:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. 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.

More information about Lyme Disease can be found here.

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