Indiana health officials are encouraging Hoosiers to protect themselves from tick bites while outdoors as warmer temperatures bring an increase in tick activity across the state. Recent field sampling by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has found adult and immature ticks (nymphs) carrying the bacterium that causes Lyme disease in a number of counties, particularly in the northern, west central, and south central parts of the state. Maps displaying the tick infection data are available at https://www.in.gov/isdh/28130.htm.
“Our field work shows that ticks are carrying Lyme disease in multiple regions within our state,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H. “However, all Hoosiers should take precautions against tick bites when enjoying the outdoors, no matter where they are.”
Ticks can transmit several diseases in addition to Lyme disease, such as ehrlichiosis and spotted fever rickettsioses like Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Preventing tick bites can protect Hoosiers from all tick-borne illnesses, Brown said.
Hoosiers can reduce their risk of tick bites by:
- Wearing a long-sleeved shirt and light-colored pants, with the shirt tucked in at the waist and the pants tucked into socks, if they will be in grassy or wooded areas
- Treating clothing and outdoor gear with 0.5% permethrin, which is an insect repellent specifically designed for this purpose (permethrin should NOT be used on bare skin)
- Using EPA-registered insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undecanone
- Conducting frequent tick checks while outdoors
Once indoors, people should thoroughly check for ticks on clothing, gear, pets and skin. Tumbling clothes in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes will kill ticks, and showering can help remove any unattached ticks.
“Quickly finding and removing a tick can help prevent you from becoming sick,” Brown said. “Use a mirror or the buddy system to check your entire body for ticks, bearing in mind that immature ticks can be no larger than a poppy seed.”
Ticks may be safely removed by using tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin and then pulling outward with steady and even pressure. After the tick is removed, the area should be washed thoroughly with soap and water. The tick should be discarded by submerging it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Ticks should never be crushed with the fingernails.
Anyone who becomes ill after finding an attached tick should see a medical provider immediately and alert the provider to the exposure. Tick-borne diseases can be treated with antibiotics, and prompt diagnosis can help prevent complications.
For more information about ticks and how to prevent the diseases they carry, see the ISDH website at http://www.in.gov/isdh/20491.htm. You also can visit ISDH at www.Statehealth.in.gov for important health and safety information or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1.