Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) Epidemiologists remind the public that warmer weather means people will be outdoors more often and we need to remember some key ways to protect ourselves from not only sunburns, but ticks as well.
Ticks can spread diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Lyme Disease, and Ehrlichiosis. In Oklahoma, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is common between April and September. Within Oklahoma City-County this Spring, we’ve seen an increase in individuals that encountered ticks and became ill from suspected RMSF, especially in rural Oklahoma County.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is spread from ticks to people and cannot be spread person to person. OCCHD reminds residents to protect themselves and their family from tick bites and potentially being infected with RMSF.
Those that are bitten by a tick infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever could develop a high fever and headaches 3 to 14 days after the bite and may also have a rash. Antibiotics are used to treat Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever so if you or your loved ones have been bitten by a tick, it’s important to see your physician and get tested.
The best way to prevent Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is to avoid direct contact with ticks. “Ticks are edge dwellers, meaning they will commonly find tall grass or shrubs and latch on to a person near the edge of the trail. Make sure you are running or hiking in the center of the trail to reduce your risk of coming in contact with a tick,” explains Megan Holderness, OCCHD Epidemiologist.
If you are going to be in brushy areas, make sure you wear proper clothing (pants, long sleeves, boots) and use repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET, Picardin or IR3535 on exposed skin.
As soon as you’re done with the activities, examine yourself, your gear and your pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later so catching them before you get home can prevent them from living in your home later.
Phil Maytubby, Director of Public Health Protection urges others to “wear Permethrin treated clothing, if possible, and long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into your boots/high socks. This provides you an extra layer of protection from a tick bite if you come into contact with one.”
Finally, conduct “tick checks” every two to three hours when you are outdoors, including your hair and remove any attached ticks immediately using tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out.