May 24, 2018

Protect Yourself and Others from Tick Bites

Two minutes is all it takes to prevent tick bites and tick borne illnesses by applying insect repellant while enjoying the outdoors this Memorial Day weekend.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo -The upcoming Memorial Day Weekend gives Missourians a chance to honor those who have lost their lives serving our country and many of us will spend time outdoors attending Memorial Day events.

"As you gather with friends and family to honor those who gave their lives for our freedoms, the Department of Health and Senior Services wants you to be safe by protecting yourself, friends and family by practicing the 2-Minute Drill to prevent tick bites," said Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). "We know with hotter weather ticks become more active, so taking a few minutes to protect yourself and others can prevent you from becoming sick."

Two minutes are all it takes to prevent infection from tick-bites:

  • Use an insect repellent with a minimum of 20% DEET, picaridin or IR3535 on exposed skin and clothing. Choose a product that lasts several hours whenever you spend time outdoors. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply it first, let it dry, and then apply repellent. Products that contain both sunscreen and repellent are not recommended
  • When possible, wear protective clothing (light colored, long sleeved shirts and pants) when outdoors to keep ticks off skin.

Missouri is home to a variety of tick species, including the Lone Star tick, American Dog tick and Deer tick. Missouri also experiences a variety of tick-borne illness including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis.

"In 2018, we have already seen 37 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and 14 cases of ehrlichiosis throughout Missouri, which is similar to what we have seen in years past. May, June and July are our prime months for tick-borne illness in Missouri," continued Dr. Williams.

Other tick-borne diseases include tularemia, Lyme or Lyme-like disease, and disease caused by Heartland and Bourbon viruses. "We continue to work with experts on tick-borne disease from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who study emerging tick-borne threats such as Bourbon and Heartland viruses and monitor symptomatic patients experiencing tick-borne illness," said Dr. Williams.

No matter where you spend your outdoor time this weekend, use insect repellant, check for ticks while you're having fun and again after returning from the outdoors. If possible you should change clothes and shower soon after spending time outdoors. "Prevention is the key to decreasing tick-borne disease whenever you are outside, please remember to use insect repellant and check for ticks," stated Dr. Williams.

Symptoms of tick-borne diseases typically begin within two weeks of a bite by an infected tick and for most people include a sudden fever, body aches and headache. If you find an attached tick, remove it promptly. The longer it is attached the greater the risk of infection. To remove ticks:

  • Using tweezers, grasp tick near its mouth and as close to your skin as possible.
  • Pull tick firmly, straight out, away from skin. Do not jerk or twist the tick.
  • Do NOT use alcohol, matches, liquid soap or petroleum jelly to remove a tick.
  • Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water after the tick is removed. Apply an antiseptic to the bite site.

If symptoms occur following a tick bite, or even after exposure to a tick habitat, be sure to tell your health care provider. For more information visit http://health.mo.gov/2minutedrill/ and cdc.gov/ticks.

About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in protecting health and keeping people safe. More information about DHSS can be found at health.mo.gov or find us on Facebook and Twitter @HealthyLivingMo.

 

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