October 18, 2018

Take aim at ticks

JEFFERSON CITY, MO - Cool autumn days and the inviting prospect of colorful foliage will lead many Missourians to head outdoors again after a long, hot summer. But, even though cooler weather has arrived, ticks are still active and can transmit diseases if precautions are not taken. 

\"Some ticks such as the lone star tick can be found year-round,\" said Dr. Randall Williams, DHSS Director. \"The lone star tick, which is the primary carrier of ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and Heartland virus and is a possible carrier of Bourbon virus, is well adapted to withstand Missouri's winters. It can survive freezing temperatures by burying itself deep in the leaf litter and emerges when ground temperatures rise above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.\" 

With turkey and deer seasons ongoing, DHSS recommends that hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts keep a can of insect repellent in their backpack or tackle box. 

\"Remember to do tick checks,\" said Williams. \"Frequent tick checks increase the chances of finding a tick before it can transmit disease. If you find a tick, stop what you're doing and remove it. And remind your companions to check themselves as well.\" 

DHSS recommends the following precautions to prevent 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.
  • When possible, wear protective clothing (light colored, long sleeved shirts and pants) when outdoors to keep ticks off skin.
  • Avoid tick infested areas including brushy areas, tall grasses, wood piles and leaf litter. When hiking, stay near the center of trails to avoid ticks.
  • Reduce ticks around your home by keeping lawns mowed short, shrubs and trees trimmed, and remove leaf litter, wood piles, fallen branches, trash and debris from yards.
  • People with pets should talk with their veterinarian about use of tick prevention treatments. You should regularly check your pet for ticks.

Most tick-borne diseases are spread primarily through the bite of an infected tick. However, the bacteria that cause tularemia (commonly known as, \"rabbit fever\") can be spread through the bites of ticks and deer flies or during contact with infected animals and their carcasses.

Preventing tick bites and prompt removal of attached ticks are the best strategies to avoid getting sick from diseases they can carry. Just one bite from a tick can lead to serious illness and the longer a tick is attached the greater the risk of infection. To remove ticks:

  • Using tweezers, grasp the tick near its mouth and as close to your skin as possible.
  • Pull the tick firmly, straight out, away from your 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 www.health.mo.gov/ticks.

More information about hunting seasons in Missouri can be found at the Department of Conservation page, https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/seasons.

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.