Spring is time to be wary of tick-borne illnesses

April 26, 2023

Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, flowers are blooming and trees are starting to bud. However with the arrival of spring and the warm weather comes an increased risk of tick-borne illnesses.

Ticks are typically tiny, blood sucking parasites/insects that are found in grassy or wooded areas. They attach themselves to a host (human beings or animal) and feed on their blood. These ticks unfortunately carry a variety of diseases that can be harmful to humans. Examples of these tick-borne illnesses include Lyme disease which is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged tick. Symptoms of this disease vary widely but often include fever, headache, fatigue and a bull’s eye rash.

If left untreated, Lyme’s disease can lead to serious complications like joint pain and heart problems.

Another common tick-borne illness to be aware of is Rocky Mountain Spotted fever (RMSF), the disease gets its name from where it was first identified however it is seldom seen in that region and most cases are reported in the Eastern and Central states including Kansas, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, North and South Carolina and Oklahoma.

RMSF is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected American dog tick or Rocky Mountain wood tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, rash and vomiting. If untreated, this disease can be fatal.

Other tick-borne illnesses include Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and Powassan virus which can also cause a range of mild to severe symptoms and can be quite difficult to diagnose.

To protect yourself from tick-borne illnesses this spring, it is important to take precautions when spending time outdoors. These precautions include but are not limited to:

  • Avoiding tick-infested areas during the warmer months.
  • Wearing a hat, long sleeves and pants. Tuck your pants into your socks, wear light colored clothing so ticks can easily be seen.
  • Walk in the center of trails to avoid overhanging grass or bush(es).
  • Check your body as well as your pet’s every few hours for ticks when you spend a long time outdoors.
  • Use insect repellants containing DEET on your skin or permethrin on your clothing. Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions before applying on children or washing off repellents when going indoors.
  • Remove dry ticks as soon as possible when seen using tweezers (do not handle with bare hands).

If you develop symptoms of a tick-borne illness, seek medical attention immediately as early treatment is important in preventing complications and long-term effects of these diseases.

Spring is a beautiful time of the year, enjoy it; but please take precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

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