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As Ticks Take Over Long Island, Suffolk County Forms 'Tick Task Force'

MANORVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- There seems to be an uptick ... in the tick population.

Tick-control companies on Long Island are claiming that they can't keep up with business, and homeowners say that they're seeing a bumper crop in their backyards.

And in response to the matter, Suffolk County has formed a new "tick task force."

Brian Kelly of East End Tick Control has been in the tick-spraying business for more than a decade, and he said that he has never seen so many ticks.

"The ticks this year are unbelievable," Kelly told CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff.  "In the last 15 years in business we have not seen this kind of tick activity."

During one recent backyard check, Kelly said he found 49 ticks in 15 minutes. He said that his company's phones are jammed with calls from worried homeowners.

Residents like Maryann Fragola of Manorville are constantly picking ticks off their kids.

"They're everywhere," Fragola said. "There are innumerable ticks on the property despite my best efforts."

The apparent increase may be due to the mild winter, according to the head of the tick task force.

"What we saw were the ticks coming out earlier than they normally do," said Dr. Scott Campbell of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

The task force will consider possible public spraying and will attempt to better educate homeowners, such as providing detailed tips on how to safely remove a tick.

Members say to use tweezers -- not fingers -- to grasp the tick at the mouth and to pull straight out, as opposed to twisting or squeezing.

Also,  don't use petroleum jelly,  gasoline or a lit match. Health officials said that none of those tricks work, and they may actually increase your chances of contracting a disease.

"Tick removal is simple if you do it slowly," Campbell explained.

Another key factor is to monitor the site for the telltale sign of Lyme disease:  a bull's-eye rash.

Fragola said that she hopes that the task force institutes a county-wide tick-control plan. But in the meantime, she said she's staying as cautious as possible.

"We do tick checks every night before bed, and I wash them from head to toe," Fragola said. "I have tried every product out there."

The task force will issue recommendations by year's end, but until then Fragola will be on tick patrol.

Suffolk County's new tick task force will meet monthly and is open to the public.

Suffolk County residents, have you been terrorized by ticks as of late? Share your stories and comments in the section below...

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