DPHHS gives tips on avoiding tick bites and related illnesses
The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is offering tips on avoiding tick bites and related illnesses in the coming spring and summer months.
DPHHS has a few simple steps you can do to protect yourself: Limit exposure to ticks, use insect repellent, and inspect yourself, gear, and pets for ticks.
Officials with DPHHS say tick season is unpredictable, and that each year, thousands of people in the U.S. are bitten by ticks and become infected with a tick-borne illness.
“There’s numerous prevention measures Montanans can take to avoid tick bites while still enjoying the abundance of outdoor opportunities available in the state,” DPHHS communicable disease epidemiologist, Erika Baldry, said.
Reports of tick-borne illnesses are investigated every year by public health departments in Montana who monitor tick trends closely as tick-borne illnesses are reportedly on the rise across the country.
“Over the past two decades, several new tickborne diseases that can cause illness have been identified in the U.S. Recently identified tick diseases in the U.S. include Heartland and Bourbon virus,” a release from DPHHS says.
“While these new diseases have not been reported in Montana, we do receive reports of many others,” Baldry said.
Commonly reported tick-borne diseases in Montana include, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, tick-borne relapsing fever, tularemia, and Colorado tick fever virus (CTFV).
Cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia nad CTFV have increased in Montana in recent years.
According to the DPHHS, typically, the most common tickborne illness acquired in Montana is Rocky Mountain spotted fever, with a ten-year average of eight cases reported each year. However, in 2020, Montana had 17 cases of CTFV reported, which was an increase from the average of one to two cases per year.
From DPHHS’s release, to avoid tick-borne illness, public health officials recommend:
Avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter and walk in the center of trails when hiking.
Use EPA-registered insect repellent.
Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
Bath or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors can help you find and wash off crawling ticks before they bite you. Paying close attention to areas where ticks like hide, under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around the waist is important.
After leaving the outdoors, check your clothing, gear and pets for ticks.
Put dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, dry thoroughly and then tumble dry on high for 10 more minutes.
Common symptoms of tick-borne infections include fever and chills, aches and pains, rash, and fever of varying degrees.
If a tick is found and is attached, you can follow these steps from DPHHS to safely remove the tick:
Use fine-tipped, “pointy” tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
DPHHS warned against using “folklore” remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. These methods are not recommended and may cause the tick to burrow deeper into the skin.
You can find more information about tick-borne illnesses, protection and detection efforts on the DPHHS website.