Tick Season Underway - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Tick Season Underway

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As the weather gets nicer you're more likely to run across a tick at the lakes or camping this summer. The North Dakota Department of Health is urging caution this tick season and wants you to know a few things.

From the North Dakota Department of Health:

The North Dakota Department of Health encourages residents to take measures to avoid tick bites and the potential for serious tick-borne diseases while enjoying outdoor activities this summer.

 "Tick-borne diseases such as tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease can be prevented by taking some basic precautions to avoid tick bites," said Alicia Lepp, epidemiologist with the Department of Health's Division of Disease Control. "Areas that are heavily wooded or have tall grass or brush are more likely to be infested with ticks, especially between April and September, with the highest risk of disease transmission occurring during the warmer months."

The Department of Health offers the following tips to help reduce the chance of ticks making contact with your skin:

  • Wear light-colored clothing to make the ticks easier to see.
  • Wear long pants, and tuck the legs into your socks or boots.
  • Keep your shirt tucked in.
  • Apply insect repellent that contains DEET to your clothes and exposed skin. Always follow label directions. (Repellents that contain permethrin should be used only on clothing.)

 "One of the best ways to prevent tick bites is to avoid habitats where ticks can be found," Lepp said. "However, if these tick-infested areas cannot be avoided, it's important to remove and wash all clothing as soon as possible and check carefully for ticks. Use tweezers to remove any ticks that have attached to your body."

According to Lepp, the best way to remove a tick is to use tweezers to grasp it as closely to the skin as possible and gently pull upward with a steady, even pressure until it is free. Avoid

crushing the tick during removal. Make sure to wash your hands and the site of tick attachment with soap and water after removal.

In the last five years, six cases of tularemia, four cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and 97 cases of Lyme disease were reported in North Dakota. Human Lyme disease cases have been increasing since 2005 with an average of five to 15 cases reported each year; however, in the past two years there have been a total of 59 cases reported.

The most common tick in North Dakota is the dog tick, which is associated with the transmission of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. The deer tick, which can carry Lyme disease, has been identified in areas in the northeastern region of North Dakota through surveillance activities by the North Dakota Department of Health, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota in the spring and summer of 2010. Finding the deer tick in the state is a significant discovery because there could be areas in the state at risk for Lyme disease transmission.

Symptoms of tularemia usually begin with a painless ulcer at the site of the tick bite and may include swollen glands. If the bacteria enter the bloodstream, more severe infections, including pneumonia, can occur.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, a general feeling of illness, deep muscle pain, severe headaches, chills and irritated eyes. A rash begins on about the third day of illness, usually appearing first on the hands and feet and then spreading to the rest of the body.

Symptoms of Lyme disease occur three to 32 days after infection. The first symptom is often a red rash near the tick bite, which develops in about 60 percent of patients. Other early symptoms include fatigue, fever, headache, stiff neck, sore muscles, swollen glands and painful joints.  Without treatment, these symptoms may last several weeks or more. Arthritis, neurological or cardiac problems may develop weeks to months after the initial infection if the initial infection is not treated with antibiotics.

People who have symptoms that may be associated with a tick-related illness should seek medical care.

For more information on tick-borne diseases and tick bite prevention, contact Alicia Lepp, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.2378 or visit www.ndhealth.gov/disease/tickborne 

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