Health officials warn of tick-borne illnesses as summer months approach

PIERRE, S.D. — As summer approaches, state health officials are warning people to keep an eye out for ticks in order to avoid tick-borne pathogens such as Lyme disease and tularemia.

In 2017 the South Dakota Department of Health investigated 13 cases of tularemia, 11 cases of Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis and 11 of Lyme disease. Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis is a group of tickborne infections that includes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Pacific Coast tick fever, rickettsialpox and Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis.

“We see cases of tick-borne illness every year in South Dakota,” said Dr. Joshua Clayton, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “You can protect yourself when you’re outside by checking yourself and young children often and removing any ticks you find right away. It also helps to tuck your pant legs into your socks and spray your clothes and any exposed skin with repellent.”

The most common tick found in South Dakota is the American dog tick, which is the chief carrier of tularemia and Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis in the state.

American brown dog tick, which commonly carries tularemia and Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis

Lyme disease is carried by the deer tick, which has been found in some eastern counties, but most areas of the state are not suitable habitat.

Cases of Lyme disease reported in South Dakota often are the result of out of state deer tick bites.

Deer tick, which carries Lyme disease. Photos courtesy CDC Public Health Image Library via the South Dakota Department of Health

Activities you can do to prevent tick-borne illness:

  • Wear repellent (products with 20% DEET or more, picardin, or IR3535 on exposed skin) or permethrin treated clothes.
  • Check yourself for ticks daily after you have been outside, especially in wooded or brushy areas with high grass.
  • Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Check (and treat with insecticide) your pets for ticks. Remove ticks from pets frequently as ticks can ride into your home on pets.
  • Call your doctor if you develop a fever or rash. Be sure to tell your doctor about any recent tick bite or time spent in areas with ticks.

Removing an Attached Tick: Remove the tick as soon as possible after discovering. The best way to remove an attached tick is as follows:

  • If possible, use blunt curved forceps, tweezers or a special tick removal device. If you use your fingers, cover them with rubber gloves, waxed paper, plastic or paper toweling. (Do not use Vaseline, matches or cigarettes.)
  • Place the tips of the tweezers or edges of the device around the tick’s mouthparts where they enter the skin.
  • With forceps or tweezers, remove the tick with a steady pull away from the skin – do not jerk or twist the tick.
  • Take great care not to crush or puncture the body of the tick or to get any fluids from the tick on you.
  • Dispose of the tick by sealing it in plastic bag and throwing it in the trash.
  • If you wish to keep the tick alive, place it in a sealable container, such as a bag or vial, with moist paper and store it in the refrigerator to give to a physician for examination if a tick-carried disease is suspected.
  • After you have removed the tick, disinfect your skin with alcohol or povidone iodine and wash hands with soap and water.
  • Contact your health care provider if you have difficulty removing a tick or becoming ill following a tick exposure.
Categories: Local News, South Dakota News