South Dakota Urges Steps To Prevent Tick-Borne Disease

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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State officials are reminding South Dakotans to protect themselves from ticks and tick-borne illness as they head outdoors to enjoy spring’s warmer weather.

South Dakota reports tick-borne diseases each year, says Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist for the Department of Health. In 2008 South Dakota reported 10 cases of tularemia, three of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, three cases of Lyme disease and one case of erlichiosis. Kightlinger noted that tularemia, or rabbit fever, can also be spread by infected rabbit carcasses.

There are 17 different tick species in South Dakota and not all transmit each type of infection. “The American dog tick is the most common species in the state and is the main carrier of tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever,” said Dr. Mike Catangui, Extension Entomologist at South Dakota State University. “The deer tick, the primary species that transmits the spirochete that causes Lyme disease, has been found in only five eastern South Dakota counties. Another tick found in South Dakota, the mouse tick, can also transmit the spirochete.”

The Department of Health investigates all reported cases of tick-borne disease in the state. “Our investigations indicate the majority of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia cases are acquired in South Dakota while most Lyme disease cases are acquired out-of-state,” said Dr. Kightlinger.

Tick-borne illness symptoms include sudden onset of a moderate-to-high fever, stiff neck, deep muscle pain, arthritis, fatigue, severe headache, chills, a rash on the arms and legs or around the site of the bite, and swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the neck. If you develop any of these symptoms after a tick bite, see your doctor. With Rocky Mountain spotted fever the illness does not start immediately after the tick bite, but typically 5 to 10 days after the tick attachment.

A tick bite is usually painless and appears as a small red bump with a bright red halo. If you find a tick attached, be careful not to crush it. Instead, use tweezers or a facial tissue and pull slowly and steadily to remove the tick. Once removed, immediately apply antiseptic to the site to prevent infection. If you used bare hands to remove the tick, wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, being especially careful not to touch your eyes before washing your hands.

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Take the following steps to prevent tick exposure:

* Repel ticks by tucking your pants into your socks when outdoors. Spray clothes and any exposed skin with a tick repellent.

* Check frequently for ticks when outdoors, especially the scalp and folds of skin. Ticks need to be attached for several hours to spread infection so you can significantly cut your risk by checking for and removing ticks right away.

* Check small children thoroughly and often for ticks when they've been outside or have had contact with pets or livestock that may have ticks.

* Apply insecticides and tick repellents to your pet's bedding for added protection.

* Check your animals frequently for ticks. To remove ticks from animals, apply constant traction with forceps or tweezers. If you must use your fingers, wear disposable gloves and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water afterward.

* When visiting Lyme disease infested areas (northeastern Minnesota, Wisconsin, north-Atlantic coast states) take special precautions to avoid ticks.

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