Tularemia and other tick-borne illnesses are reported every year in South Dakota so it’s important that residents protect themselves as they head outdoors, says a state health official.
“Using repellent and checking often for ticks are the best ways to prevent tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other tick-borne illnesses,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “Ticks need to be attached for several hours to spread infection so you can cut your risk by checking for ticks often and removing them right away. Tucking pants into your socks and spraying clothes and exposed skin with repellent further cuts your risk.”
In 2014 the department investigated two cases of Lyme disease, three of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, five of tularemia and one of babesiosis. Most areas of South Dakota are not suitable habitat for the Ioxdes deer tick that carries Lyme disease as it prefers heavily forested areas such as those in Wisconsin and Minnesota. South Dakota Lyme disease cases have typically had tick bites out-of-state.
A 2011 tick survey by SDSU did not find deer ticks in the locations tested but did find numerous Dermacentor dog ticks, which are common all over South Dakota. The dog tick doesn’t carry Lyme disease bit it 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 to crush it. Then apply antiseptic to prevent infection. If you use bare hands wash thoroughly with warm, soapy water and avoid touching your eyes before washing.
Symptoms of tick-borne illness 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 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.
Fact sheets on specific tick-borne diseases can be found on the Department of Health web site at http://doh.sd.gov/diseases/infectious/diseasefacts/.