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Tick Borne Illness and Prevention

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ABOUT TICK-BORNE ILLNESS IN NEBRASKA

Ticks bother Nebraskans every spring and summer largely due to the increase in outdoor activities such as trail running, hiking, camping and Morel mushroom hunting that take place in prime tick habitat. Ticks are blood feeders and have the potential to cause some serious diseases in both people and pets. Ticks can be active all year round, but May and June are regarded as high tick season in Nebraska. Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services receives reports of tick borne disease every year.

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The two most common ticks found in eastern Nebraska this time of year are the American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis, and the Lone Star Tick, Amblyomma americanum.

The American Dog Tick, also known as the Wood Tick, is the most common tick in Nebraska and is found throughout the state. The American Dog Tick can transmit Rickettsia a bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) and Francisella tularensis the agent responsible for Tularemia.

The symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are a dark rash and a fever appearing 5 to 10 days after a tick bite. It can lead to severe illness and hospitalization. RMSF can be cured with antibiotics, but only if treatment begins immediately. "Symptoms of RMSF are severe headache and high fever and a few days later a rash begins on the wrists and ankles," says Dr. Jill S. Reel, Pediatrician in the Blair Clinic.

The symptoms of Tularemia include high fever and/or skin ulcer at site of bite. An ulcer may be accompanied by swelling of regional lymph glands in armpit or groin. Tularemia can be treated with antibiotics in the first few days of symptoms.

The Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) is a smaller tick found in southeastern Nebraska and can be a carrier of Ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia chaffeensis). Symptoms generally appear five to 10 days after a tick bite and include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, nausea and occasionally a rash. If left untreated symptoms progress and may lead to hemorrhage of internal organs and renal failure.

Ticks have the ability to feed and remain embedded for several days (7–10) if undisturbed. The longer the tick remains attached, the more likely it will transmit pathogens, if infected. Scientists believe that no infection will occur if the tick is removed within 24 hours. "So after being outdoors check for ticks daily," Dr. Reel says.

Lyme disease is a rarity in Nebraska, and contracting the disease in Nebraska is highly unlikely. Most reported cases of Lyme occur when patients have been traveling in the northeast and upper Midwest, but cases have been reported all along the coastal areas of the United States.

PREVENTION

  • Perform regular, full body, tick checks on your person and children, and if possible, shower within two hours of coming in from outdoors. On people, American Dog Ticks are most often found on the head and around the ears. In addition to these areas, Lone Star Ticks can be found under armpits, around waist, behind knee and in groin area.
  • Remove ticks before they get a chance to transmit disease.
  • Wear long pants, tucked into white socks for quick detection and removal.
  • Put outdoor clothes in the dryer on high for 30 minutes to kill ticks on clothing. Ticks will survive the wash cycle and can easily escape the laundry hamper and seek out a host.
  • Protect your pets with a flea guard and perform regular tick checks. Ticks are most often found on the dog's head, in and around the ears, neck, armpits and between the toes. Use pointy tweezers to remove them, collect and discard ticks in a way they cannot escape.
  • Remove embedded ticks as soon as possible using pointy tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the skin's surface and pulling straight outward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this may cause its mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. After removing the tick, disinfect affected skin with rubbing alcohol and keep the tick for iden¬tification.
  • Right now, the most effective insect repellent on the market is still DEET. Depending on the situation, DEET provides 2-8 hours of protection. It has broad spectrum activity and is effective against mosquitoes, biting flies, midges, chigger, fleas and ticks. Products with higher percentages of DEET will protect for a longer period of time, but anything over 30 percent does not offer greater protection and is unnecessary. "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using over 30% DEET in children and I recommend washing off the DEET before bed," Dr. Reel says.

If you have symptoms or concerns related to tick borne illness don't hesitate to make an appointment with your Healthcare provider.

Spooner Annette Jill Reel MD
Annette Spooner, BSN, RN CIC
Infection Prevention
Jill S. Reel, M.D.
Blair Clinic
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Guest Monday, 17 December 2018

 

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