Rangers are warning hikers to be extra vigilant checking for ticks as some have been found to be infected with Lyme disease. A "tick check" after hiking can minimize the risk of contracting the disease. Patrick Healy reports from Malibu Creek State Park for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 12, 2013.
Lyme disease-carrying ticks have been detected in seven popular recreational areas in the Santa Monica mountains, one of them for the first time, according to test results released by vector control officials.
The revelation is accompanied by warnings to visitors to check their skin for the tiny blood-sucking parasites.
Infected ticks have been found in areas of the Santa Monica Mountains
for nearly 15 years. However, last month marked the first time lyme-positive ticks were confirmed in the National Park Service's Paramount Ranch
, an old moviemaking area near Agoura Hills, according to Robert Saviskas, executive director of Los Angeles County West Vector Control.
Lyme-positive ticks were also found by the Vector District in four state parks: Malibu Creek, Tapia, Topanga, and Will Rogers.
"This is a good reminder for visitors to stick to the trail and avoid the vegetated areas where ticks like to hang out," said Evan Jones, Chief Ranger for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
In addition, there were also positive tests for ticks sampled from upper Malibu in the city's Charmlee Park, and above LA's westside in Sullivan Canyon, which has a creekside trail that is a magnet for hikers and mountain bikers.
Between 1 and 2 percent of western black-legged ticks are estimated to carry the debilitating bacterial infection.
The bugs lurk in the grass along trails and latch onto unwitting travelers. Young ticks, or nymphs, embed their heads into their victims' flesh and feed. Most people don't immediately notice the bite, and a tick can infect a victim if it remains embedded for several hours.
Initial Lyme disease symptoms
include a red, expanding rash, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The disease can be treated with antibiotics. But if left untreated, it can cause progressively worse symptoms including severe pain, swelling of the spinal cord and heart palpitations. Some symptoms can linger or recur for years after the patient is treated.
Hikers can take precautions such as wearing pants and long sleeves and avoiding tall grass. And, most importantly, they can check their skin for ticks early and often during and after hikes to catch the parasites before they have a chance to spread the disease.
The disease is most common in the New England region, according to the CDC.
On the order of 100 cases a year are reported in California. There were 123 in 2010, according to the California Department of Public Health.