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Warmer weather brings Indiana threat of tick-transmitted diseases

Thursday, June 9, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- State health officials are cautioning Hoosiers to protect themselves as the weather warms and tick season begins. As Hoosiers spend more time outdoors during the spring and summer months, they need to protect themselves against ticks and tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Ticks are small, insect-like creatures often found in naturally vegetated areas or woodlands throughout Indiana.

Last year, Indiana confirmed 62 cases of Lyme disease, one case of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, one case of Ehrlichiosis and two cases of Tularemia.

"Ticks become active when the temperatures rise," said Jennifer House, veterinary epidemiologist at the Indiana State Department of Health. "Like mosquitoes, ticks are carriers of a number of diseases and all ticks should be considered infectious and capable of transmitting diseases, even though some are not."

Health officials recommend if individuals plan to enter a grassy or wooded area where ticks are often present, the best way to prevent tick-transmitted diseases is to wear a long-sleeved shirt and light-colored pants, with the shirt tucked in at the waist and the pants tucked into socks. Use of repellents provides even more protection.

Insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin can be sprayed on both skin and clothing to repel ticks and other insects. People who expect to be exposed to tick habitat for extended periods of time should use products containing permethrin on their clothing. Permethrin is an insecticide that kills ticks and other insects on contact.

After leaving a grassy or wooded area, people should check for ticks on clothing and skin. Ticks need to be attached from several hours to a couple of days before they can infect an individual. If these diseases are diagnosed promptly, all of them can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

"If a tick is attached to your skin, it can be removed with either tweezers or forceps by grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible," Dr. House said. "Ticks should not be removed with bare fingers, but if tweezers or forceps are not available, you can use tissue paper or a paper towel to prevent the passing of any possible infection."

Lyme disease is often associated with a persistent, slowly expanding blotchy red rash, which is usually fainter at the center than at the edges. Other signs and symptoms include joint pain or swelling, especially in the knees; fatigue; difficulty in concentrating; headache; stiff neck or weakness of the facial muscles; dizziness; and an irregular heartbeat.

The symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis and Tularemia are similar. They include a moderate-to-high fever, coupled with fatigue; muscle aches and pains; severe headaches; and chills. With Rocky Mountain spotted fever a rash may also develop shortly after disease onset, first appearing on the arms, legs, palms of the hand and soles of the feet before spreading to other parts of the body.

For more information about tick-borne diseases, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website at www.cdc.gov/ticks.

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All very good advice. Finding and promptly removing ticks (from a person or pet) can dramatically reduce risk of infection. Once the tick has been removed, have it identified. Only certain kinds of ticks can transmit the agent of Lyme disease, and the identity of the tick can be of value to you and your physician. Physical samples can be sent, or digital images uploaded, for a rapid, confidential, independent and expert evaluation. For more information, visit https://identify.us.com.

Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)

-- Posted by RichardPollack on Thu, Jun 9, 2011, at 9:25 AM

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