With spring now in full swing, people are taking advantage of the warmer weather and spending more time outside.
This also is the time when tick activity increases across Kentucky.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Kentucky Department for Public Health are reminding people to take precautions against tick bites, which can transmit serious and potentially deadly illnesses.
“A tick bite can spoil an otherwise great day outdoors,” said Karen Waldrop, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife deputy commissioner. “Plan ahead to protect yourself against ticks.”
Tick awareness and prevention will be the focus of a Facebook Live discussion with state public health officials on June 4. The online event is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. (Eastern). To access the livestream, visit the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Facebook page at facebook.com/kychfs. Questions can be emailed in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted in the comments section during the event.
“Spring and early summer are peak times for tick bites, which coincide with people venturing outdoors in the warmer weather,” said Jeffrey D. Howard, Jr., acting Department for Public Health commissioner. “It's important that people take preventive measures against tick bites and also look out for ticks after visiting affected areas. We encourage everyone to remember these four steps of protect, check, remove and watch to protect themselves and others from tick bites.”
- Protect – Protect yourself from tick bites by avoiding areas where ticks live, such as wooded and brushy areas, tall grasses, woodpiles, leaf litter, and areas close to the ground. Take action to decrease your risk of infection by wearing an Environmental Protection Agency-registered tick repellent containing at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or one with lemon eucalyptus. When possible, wear protective clothing (light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants tucked into socks) when outdoors to keep ticks off your body. Clothing, boots and other gear can be treated with permethrin, a commonly used insecticide that repels and kills ticks, mosquitos and other pests. One treatment can withstand several washings. Allow any articles treated with permethrin to dry before use. It should not be applied directly to the skin. Permethrin is safe around many animals, but highly toxic to cats. Before sure to keep any sprayed items away from cats. If you have pets talk with your veterinarian about the use of tick prevention treatments. You should regularly check your pet for ticks.
- Check – Check yourself and others for ticks after spending time outdoors. Be sure to check your entire body for ticks using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body after returning from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks. Check under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and especially in and around the hair. Be sure to check your gear and pets for ticks because they hitchhike inside of your clothing where they are not readily visible. If possible, change your clothes and shower after spending time outdoors. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If clothes require washing, hot water is recommended to effectively kill ticks.
- Remove – Remove any imbedded ticks as soon as possible. Use tweezers to grab the tick close to the skin and gently pull on the tick with steady pressure. Do not jerk or twist the tick. Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water after the tick is removed. Apply an antiseptic to the bite site. Do not use alcohol, matches, liquid soap or petroleum jelly to remove a tick. Dispose of a tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
- Watch – Watch for any symptoms of tick-borne illness, which can vary among individuals and differ according to the disease. A sudden fever and rash, severe headache, muscle or joint aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea can be signs of tick-borne illness. If symptoms arise within several weeks of removing a tick, consult your healthcare professional and tell them about your recent tick bite, when it occurred and where you most likely acquired the tick.
The recent confirmation of tularemia in a captive wild rabbit in Butler County heightens the need this year for added awareness and precautions to guard against tick bites.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and the Department for Public Health officials continue to investigate a field trial enclosure where the infected rabbit carcass was recently found.
Tularemia mostly affects rabbits and rodents but is transmissible to people and pets. Exposure to this rare, but treatable, bacterial disease can occur in a variety of ways, including tick bites.
The two tick species people are most likely to encounter in Kentucky are the lone star tick and the American dog tick, but there are others found in the state.
The lone star tick is an aggressive tick species and should not be taken lightly by hunters and others who enjoy spending time outdoors. There is mounting evidence its bite can cause some people to develop an allergy to red meat.
While incidences of tick-borne disease in Kentucky remain low, outdoor enthusiasts can never be too prepared for a potential encounter with ticks.
For more information on ticks and tick-borne diseases visit www.cdc.gov/ticks.