Spring weather brings return of tick-borne illness

Spring weather brings return of tick-borne illness Spring's warm weather means the return of ticks and South Dakotans should take precautions to prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

A state health official says two cases of Lyme disease were reported in South Dakota in 2002. "One case was contracted while the South Dakota resident was traveling in New York," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health. "The second case was likely contracted in southeastern South Dakota."

Kightlinger said South Dakota is a high incidence state for tularemia, another tick-borne illness. From 1993 to 2002 there were 86 cases of tularemia reported in the state, with the most cases in Shannon County. During the same period 29 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever were reported statewide.

"Tick bites can result in several human illnesses � Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tularemia, and ehrlichiosis, to name a few," said Kightlinger. "Luckily, most of these infections are transmitted from the tick to the person only after hours of tick attachment, so you can reduce your risk of infection by removing ticks quickly."

Not all ticks can transmit each type of infection. According to Dr. Mike Catangui, Extension entomologist at South Dakota State University, 17 tick species are found in South Dakota, with the American dog tick the most common. The deer tick, the species that can transmit the organism causing Lyme disease, has been found in only five eastern South Dakota counties.

Symptoms of tick-borne illnesses may include sudden onset of a moderate-to-high fever, stiff neck, deep muscle pain, arthritis, fatigue, severe headache, chills, a rash on the arms and legs or around the site of the bite, and swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the neck. If you develop any of these symptoms after a tick bite, contact your physician.

A tick bite appears as a small red bump with a bright red halo and is usually painless. If a tick is found attached, be careful not to crush it. Instead, remove it by pulling slowly and steadily with tweezers or fingers protected with a facial tissue.

Once the tick is removed, immediately apply antiseptic to the site to prevent infection. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap if you used bare hands to remove the tick. Be especially careful not to touch your eyes before washing your hands.

To prevent tick exposure, Dr. Kightlinger offered the following tips:


* When outdoors, repel ticks by tucking your pants into your socks. Spray clothing and any exposed skin with a tick repellent.


* Ticks must be attached several hours to cause infections, so check frequently for ticks when outdoors. Pay special attention to the scalp and folds of skin. Check small children thoroughly and often for ticks when they've been outdoors for recreation or had contact with pets or livestock that may have ticks.


* Apply insecticides and tick repellents to your pet's bedding for added protection.


* Check your animals frequently for ticks. To remove ticks from your animals, apply constant traction with forceps or tweezers. If you must use your fingers, wear disposable gloves and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water afterward.


* As of 2002, the Lyme disease vaccine is no longer commercially available.

Fact sheets on specific tick-borne diseases can be found on the Department of Health Web site at http://www.state.sd

.us/doh/Pubs/fctindex.htm. For more information about ticks, visit the SDSU Extension site at http://plantsci.sdstate.edu/

ent/entpubs/ticks_SD.htm.

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