Using repellent and checking often for ticks are the best ways to prevent tick-borne illnesses such as tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, says a state health official.
“Ticks need to be attached for several hours to spread infection so you can reduce your risk by checking for and removing ticks right away,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “Tuck pants into your socks and spray clothes and exposed skin with tick repellent to further reduce your risk.”
In 2013 the South Dakota department investigated four cases of Lyme disease, seven of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, seven of tularemia and one each of ehrlichiosis and babesiosis. The Ioxdes deer tick that carries Lyme disease prefers heavily forested areas In Wisconsin and Minnesota, so most areas of South Dakota are not suitable habitat for the species. All four Lyme disease cases had tick exposure out-of-state.
A 2011 tick survey by SDSU did not find deer ticks in the locations tested but did find plentiful numbers of Dermacentor dog ticks. The dog tick doesn’t carry Lyme disease but does transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tularemia and ehrlichiosis.
A tick bite is a small, painless red bump with a bright red halo. If a tick is attached, remove it with tweezers or tissue, pulling slowly and steadily, being careful not crush it. Then apply antiseptic to prevent infection. If you use bare hands wash thoroughly with warm, soapy water and don’t touch your eyes before washing.
Tick-borne illness symptoms 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, see your doctor.
Other precautions include:
- Check frequently for ticks when outside, especially the scalp and folds of skin.
- Check small children thoroughly for ticks when they've been outside or had contact with pets or livestock that may have ticks.
- Use insecticides and collars to protect pets from ticks and limit the number they carry into the home. Apply insecticides and tick repellents to pet bedding.
- Check your animals frequently for ticks. Remove ticks from animals using forceps or tweezers to apply constant traction. If you must use your fingers, wear disposable gloves then wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.