Spending Time Outdoors? Avoid Diseases Spread by Ticks

WDH 6-21-17

Residents should avoid ticks when spending time outdoors during Wyoming’s warmer months because these insects can carry potentially serious diseases, according to a Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) official.

In Wyoming, diseases passed on by infected ticks include tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) and Colorado tick fever (CTF).

“Spring and summer months are typically the peak months for Wyoming’s tick populations,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state epidemiologist and Public Health Sciences Section chief with WDH. “Tick exposure is common when we walk through, play or sit in brushy and grassy areas, or handle certain animals.”

Tularemia symptoms can 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 aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness and pneumonia. Colorado tick fever usually causes fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and, occasionally, a rash. Initial RMSF 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. RMSF and tularemia patients often require hospitalization.

General recommendations to help avoid tick-related diseases include:

  • Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks crawling on clothing.
  • Tuck pant legs into socks.
  • Apply insect repellents such as those containing 20 percent or more DEET and/or picaradin.
  • Upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, search yourself and children for ticks and remove if found.
  • Check pets for ticks; use tick control products recommended by veterinarians.

Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever” or “deer fly fever,” frequently affects rabbits, hares and rodents and has been associated with rabbit die-offs. People may acquire tularemia when bit by infected ticks, deer flies or horse flies. It can also be transmitted by handling infected animals, or through ingestion or contact with untreated, contaminated water or insufficiently cooked meat.

“We often get questions about other tick-related illnesses such as Lyme disease or Powasssan disease,” Harrist said. “While those illnesses can be a concern when you travel out of state, they are not known to be spread in Wyoming.”

Learn more about Colorado tick fever, including how to remove ticks, at https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/colorado-tick-fever/.

Information about RMSF is available at
https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/rocky-mountain-spotted-fever/.

More details about tularemia are available online at https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/tularemia/.

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