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Using insect repellent among state health dept. tips to avoid ticks this year

Macro photo of a tick. (Shutterstock)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — The season of the tick is almost upon Wyoming, and the state’s health department is offering tips to help avoid bites and the diseases that come with them.

Courtney Tillman, an epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health, said past records show people typically start seeking medical help due to tick bites in May. Diseases that are sometimes spread by infected ticks in Wyoming include tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Colorado tick fever.

Tularemia symptoms include fever, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, skin ulcers and diarrhea. If the bacteria are inhaled, symptoms can include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle ache, joint pain, dry cough, progressive weakness and pneumonia, the health department said in a news release.

Initial Rocky Mountain spotted fever symptoms may include fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, lack of appetite and severe headache. Later signs and symptoms may include rash, abdominal pain, joint pain and diarrhea.

Colorado tick fever usually causes fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and, occasionally, a rash.

“If you have symptoms of tick-borne illness, it’s important to let your healthcare provider know if you have been in a tick area, have handled live or dead animals, or have traveled out of state,” Tillman said.

People can be exposed to ticks when walking through, playing or sitting in brushy and grassy areas, or when handling certain animals.

Steps to help avoid tick-related diseases include:

  • Applying insect repellents registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, such as those containing 20% or more DEET and/or picaridin.
  • Treating outdoor clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin.
  • Avoiding brushy areas with high grass and, when hiking, walking in the center of trails.
  • Upon returning from potentially tick-infested areas, showering and searching self and children for ticks, and removing if found.
  • To kill ticks on dry clothing, tumbling dry on high heat for 10 minutes after being in tick areas. If clothes require washing, use hot water.
  • Checking pets for ticks; using tick control products recommended by veterinarians.
  • Carefully handling live or dead potentially infected animals such as rabbits and rodents.
  • Always following product instructions when using permethrin and insect repellents.

Tillman said health department tularemiaRMSF and CTF web pages each include a “tick bite assessment” tool, which demonstrates the proper way to remove an attached tick and describes when to seek healthcare after a tick bite.

“Lyme disease is a topic of interest nationally, which can be a serious threat in some locations. However, the ticks that spread Lyme disease are not known to live in Wyoming,” Tillman said.

Information from the Wyoming Department of Health about tick-borne illnesses, along with other infectious diseases, can be found at https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/.

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