Tick GraphicYou might be surprised to learn that ticks transmit more diseases and cause more illnesses in the United States than any other type of disease vector including mosquitoes. In fact, seven distinct clinical diseases are transmitted by ticks and five occur in Georgia including Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

If you or any family member experience sudden flu-like symptoms including fever, myalgia, chills, headaches and/or unusual rashes, see your physician or emergency room at once. Do not delay. The key to effective treatment is early recognition, diagnosis and treatment with appropriate antibiotics.

Of course, prevention is much better than treatment, so follow these suggestions when enjoying the outdoors:

1. Wear light-colored clothing, which will allow you to see ticks that are crawling on you before they attach. Ticks are also more attracted to light-colored clothing, but on the whole it is better that you see the tick before it attaches to you.

2. Tuck your pants legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up inside your pants.

3. Apply repellant to discourage tick attachment. Repellants containing permethrin can be sprayed on boots and clothing and can last for several days. Repellants containing DEET will only last a few hours before reapplication is needed. There are some newer repellants that do not contain DEET, but these must be applied more often. Follow label directions.

4. Conduct a body search check upon return from tick-infested areas. Remember that you usually won’t feel a tick attach itself, so look in a full-length mirror to examine all parts of your body. In most cases, a tick must be attached for several hours before diseases can be transmitted to you, so getting the tick off quickly is very important. Don’t forget to check your children when they return from playing outside, even when they have only been in your yard. Remember that some ticks, such as deer ticks, are very small and easily overlooked. Children are much less likely to notice an attached tick.

5. Use of certain pesticides on your yard grounds can reduce the chances of having ticks, but always follow the labeled instructions carefully and never use a pesticide for anything other than the purpose given on the label. If you are not sure, contract with a professional pest control operator.
6. Keep your dogs and cats treated to prevent ticks on them. Consult your veterinarian about available products. The common dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and others.

To remove attached ticks, use the following procedure:

1. Use fine tipped tweezers or shield our fingers with a tissue, paper towel, or rubber gloves.

2. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull upwards with a steady even pressure. Do not twist, jerk or squeeze the tick; this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin resulting in infection. If the mouthparts remain in the skin, use tweezers to remove them and seek medical attention if infection occurs.

3. Do not crush, squeeze, or puncture the body of the tick because its fluids may contain the infectious microbes.

4. Do not handle the tick with bare hands because infectious microbes may enter through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin. This precaution is particularly directed to individuals who remove ticks from domestic animals and pets with unprotected fingers.

5. After removing the tick, thoroughly wash the bite site and apply a disinfectant.

6. You may wish to save the tick for identification in case you subsequently become ill within the next 3 weeks. Your doctor can use this information to make an accurate diagnosis. Place the tick in a bottle or ziplock bag with a little rubbing alcohol and write the date on the outside of the container.

For more information about tick-borne diseases, log onto the Georgia Dept of Community Health web site: http://health.state.ga.us/epi/vbd/tick.asp

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