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FOR RELEASE: May 22, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Summer Tick-borne Disease Prevention Tips

Each year, hundreds of Americans become ill due to tick-borne illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that ticks cause nearly 17,000 illnesses in the United States each year. Last year, Oklahoma had approximately 60 cases of tick-borne illnesses due to these four tick-borne diseases: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia, and Lyme Disease.

RMSF is the most common of the four in Oklahoma and can have a high death rate if the disease is not recognized and treated promptly. Symptoms of RMSF may occur within 1-14 days after a tick bite, begin suddenly, and include fever, headache (often severe), muscle aches, a rash of small red bumps or blotches on the arms or legs (usually starting at the site of the tick bite and extending toward the trunk), and vomiting, abdominal pain and/or diarrhea.

Ehrlichiosis, a tick-borne disease many Oklahomans may not have heard of, is also present in Oklahoma and has symptoms that are similar to RMSF.

When participating in outdoor activities this summer, the Oklahoma State Department of Health recommends following these simple personal tick prevention precautions:

  • Wear light colored clothing to make ticks easier to see.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks to deprive ticks of attachment sites.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes – not sandals.
  • Hikers and bikers should stay in the center of trails to avoid grass and brush.
  • Check for ticks AT LEAST once per day, particularly along waistbands, in the armpits and groin area.
  • Use a tick repellent with DEET on skin and clothing according to directions.
  • Use a tick repellent with permethrin ON CLOTHING ONLY and according to directions.

If you do happen to find a tick attached to you, follow these steps for safe removal:

  • Use tweezers, or fingers wrapped in tissue, to grasp the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible - try not to twist or jerk the tick as you pull.
  • Use gentle, steady pressure to pull the tick from the skin.
  • DO NOT squeeze the body of the tick at any time while it is attached – you can release disease-causing organisms into the bite wound.
  • DO NOT squeeze the body of the tick to kill it after it has been removed – you can force disease-causing organisms out of the tick and onto/into your skin.
  • DO NOT use matches, gasoline or nail polish remover as methods of tick removal.
  • Note the date of tick removal on your calendar.
  • Wash clothing and inspect your body for additional ticks – don't forget the back and the scalp!
  • If you experience high fever, headache, tiredness, muscle aches, or a rash after a tick bite, or if you have not noticed a tick bite but have been outdoors and have these symptoms, contact your physician immediately.

For more information on tick-borne diseases, visit the Acute Disease Fact Sheets on the World Wide Web at: www.health.state.ok.us or contact your local county health department.

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