WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Summertime brings more outdoor activities like camping and hiking, but the warm weather also invites ticks and other unfriendly pests that can carry harmful diseases.
What ticks are near me and what diseases can they cause?
Ticks are small arachnids that feed off the blood of a human or an animal. Missouri is home to many tick species, but the most common include the lone star tick, the American dog tick and the black-legged tick.
These tiny vampires can carry diseases like the Heartland virus and the Bourbon virus. More common bacterial infections include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can cause fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. The infection can be fatal if not treated properly. Another well-known bacterial infection is Lyme disease, which can cause fever, chills, headache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and joint aches. In most cases, the tick must be attached to its host for over 24 hours to be able to transmit the bacteria – so ticks need to be properly removed as soon as possible.
How can I protect myself and avoid tick bites?
For the prevention of tick-borne diseases, public health professionals recommend:
•Using repellant, especially when tracking through woodsy or grassy areas. Look for repellant that contains 20 percent or more of DEET, picaridin or IR3535 on exposed skin, which is also safe for pregnant women and children older than two months.
• Wearing protective clothing, long sleeves and pants that can be tucked into boots, as well as densely woven or mesh clothing to reduce the likelihood of being bitten. Additionally, ticks are easier to spot on light-colored clothing.
•Checking yourself and others. There is a greater chance of infection with a tick-borne germ the longer an infected tick is attached to the host. So, it’s best to periodically check for ticks while you’re still outdoors, especially after you have passed through vegetation and wooded areas. It’s also a good idea to shower and wash your clothes after being outdoors. Lastly, don’t forget to check your pets before bringing them inside – ticks may hitch a ride and fall off indoors.
What should I do if I find an attached tick?
•Use fine-tipped tweezers to grab an attached tick’s head close to the skin and pull up with a steady motion until the tick is removed.
•Do not dig out tick mouthparts that are embedded in the skin. Clean the bite and watch for signs of an infection. Normally, the skin will expel embedded tick mouthparts similar to expelling a splinter.
• A tick can be killed by wrapping it in tape and then discarding it in the trash.
•Mark your calendar on the day you found the tick in case you have symptoms later.
For most people, symptoms of Missouri's tick-borne diseases usually appear less than two weeks after an infected tick bite. Seek medical attention if you get a sudden fever with chills, severe headache, fatigue or muscle aches after removing a tick.
For more information about tick-borne diseases and tick-bite prevention, contact Whiteman AFB Public Health at 660-687-2179.