Ticks Waking Up To Spread Disease

By: Leon County Health Department Release
By: Leon County Health Department Release

Tallahassee— April 16, 2012 -

Ticks love our springs and summers and return to the business of spreading diseases during our beautiful weather. Because it is the start of the active seasons for disease-carrying ticks in Florida, we need to take precautions to protect ourselves and our pets. Florida ticks carry diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichiosis. It can take a month or more to show symptoms of one of these diseases, so be alert if you are exposed to a tick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), typical symptoms include fever, chills, aches, pains and rashes. Tickborne diseases can result in mild symptoms treatable at home or severe infections requiring hospitalization. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose. However, early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications. So see your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms described here.

“Ticks are more active during the spring and summer,” said Homer J. Rice, RS, MPH, PhD, Administrator of the Leon County Health Department. “When we are out enjoying nature in the warm weather, we are more likely to be exposed to feeding ticks. Though rare, cases of tick-borne disease have been detected in Florida through our surveillance systems, so please take the precautions recommended below now.”

Tick-borne Disease Precautions
--Avoidance is the best way to keep from getting ill--

1. Apply repellent to discourage ticks from biting. EPA registered repellants containing 20% DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) can provide some protection. Repellents with permethrin can be used on clothing, shoes, tents and gear (but not on skin).
o Read label directions carefully when applying repellent.
o Some repellents are not suitable for children. DEET is not recommended for use on children younger than 2 months old.
2. Wear white or light-colored clothing to cover your skin as much as possible, so you can see any ticks crawling on your clothes. Tuck your pant legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pants.
3. Walk in the center of a trail or path to avoid touching tall grasses and other plants that are tick hang-outs.

4. Check your body and your child’s body for ticks after spending time outside (for example, in your backyard, a park, the woods) where ticks are likely to be. Look carefully at your feet and legs, as some ticks are small enough to crawl into shoes and through socks. It takes a number of hours after a bite for a tick to be able to transmit disease, so checking carefully for and removing ticks quickly can prevent illness.
5. Shower within two hours of coming indoors to reduce risk of tick bites.
6. Check your pets for ticks. Talk to your veterinarian about products that keep ticks off your pets. Follow package directions.
7. Landscape your yard to reduce the number of ticks present. To see how you can control ticks in your yard visit http://www.cdc.gov.

Removing Ticks:
If you find a tick on you or your pet, remove it right away with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers:
• Grasp the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible.
• Pull upward with a steady, even motion without squeezing or crushing the tick.
• After removing and disposing of the tick, clean the bite site and wash hands well with soap and hot water.
• Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible--not waiting for it to detach.

Most tick bites do not result in illness, so treatment is not recommended unless a person becomes ill. If you do develop an illness with a fever or rash within one month of being bitten by a tick or after spending time in tick habitat, seek medical care right away and tell your health care provider you may have been exposed to ticks. Delays in treatment can result in more serious illness.


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