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Tick season is at hand; Take precautions to prevent bites and disease

Apr 16, 2019 06:21AM ● By Editor
A deer tick (left) and an American dog tick, more commonly known as a woodtick, are shown side by side for comparison in April 2010 at Turtle River State Park near Arvilla, N.D. With tick season at hand, the North Dakota Department of Health is recommending people take precautions. Brad Dokken / Forum News Service

By the Forum News Service.  Posted: April 16, 2019

BISMARCK -- With the arrival of spring and increased opportunities for spending time outdoors, the North Dakota Department of Health recommends people take precautions against ticks and the diseases they carry because tick season is at hand.

“The highest risk of tick-borne disease transmission occurs between late spring and early fall,” said Laura Cronquist, an epidemiologist with the health department. “The key to preventing tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, is to avoid tick bites and find and remove ticks promptly.”

The health department offers the following tips to help reduce the risk of tick bites:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent. To find EPA-registered products, go to www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-insect-repellent-rightyou. Always follow label directions.
  • Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear such as boots, backpacks and tents.
  • Talk to a veterinarian about using tick preventives on pets.
  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors -- preferably within two hours -- to wash off and more easily find ticks.
  • Carefully examine gear and pets for ticks.
  • Place clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after coming indoors.

The most common symptoms of tick-borne diseases include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain. Early detection of tick-borne diseases is important to prevent potentially severe complications. People should seek medical care if they develop symptoms suggestive of a tick-borne disease after spending time outdoors.

The health department is conducting tick surveillance again this year with the help of voluntary participants across the state. Ticks are submitted for identification and testing from April until November. This surveillance is important to help the health department understand the types of ticks and tick-borne diseases present in North Dakota. 

During the 2018 tick surveillance season, most ticks collected were identified as American dog ticks, which can transmit tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Deer ticks, which can spread Lyme disease, babesiosis, Powassan virus and other diseases, were submitted from 23 counties. One tick identified as a lone star tick was submitted from Cass County. Lone star ticks can transmit ehrlichiosis and tularemia. 

In 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 92 cases of tick-borne diseases were reported to the North Dakota Department of Health, department statistics show. Lyme disease was the most common, with 56 reported cases, followed by anaplasma with 17 cases, Rocky Mountain spotted fever with 14 cases, Ehrlichiosis with four cases and Powassan virus with one case.

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