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Walworth County Reporting Increase of Tick-Borne Illnesses

The Walworth County Division of Public Health is alerting residents to an increase in tick-borne illnesses reported from June 20 through July 20 this year as compared to the same time last year.

People can take steps to avoid tick bites and reduce the chance of getting Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses such as Ehrlichiosis or Anaplasmosis:

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter since ticks like these areas. Stay to the center of a trail to avoid contact with grass and brush.
  • When you do enter a tick-prone area, use tick repellants containing 20-30% DEET and apply according to the label instructions. There is also a product called permethrin – this can only be applied to clothing according to label directions or clothing is available to buy that has been pretreated with this repellant. Be careful about the use of products labeled “natural” – some of these products can be dangerous for young children.
  • Ticks cannot jump; they crawl, so wear clothes that will help protect you from a tick climbing up your leg, arm, stomach, or chest. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are best. Tuck your pants into the top of your socks or boots; and your shirt into your pants in order to make a "tick barrier”. Wear a wide brimmed hat to help avoid ticks that may fall from trees or tall brush as you brush against it.  Light-colored clothing and hats makes ticks easier to spot. Spray these items with repellant to increase the effectiveness of your “tick barrier.”
  • Reduce the number of ticks and create tick-safe zones by using woodchips or gravel along the borders between lawns and wooded areas. Remove leaf litter and clear tall grass and brush around homes and other buildings throughout the summer.
  • Ticks need to be attached for a period of time in order to transmit disease. For Lyme disease, that time is at least 24 hours, probably more. Check often for ticks, and remove them right away. Deer ticks are small and may be hard to find, so checking for ticks must be done on all parts of the body. It is important to pay special attention to areas where ticks like to hide such as the head, scalp, and body folds (armpit, behind the knee, groin).
  • Bathe daily after spending time in tick-prone areas. Ticks do not attach immediately, they crawl around looking for a nice spot so you may be able to wash the tick off before it even attaches. Wash all areas of your body, feeling for tiny lumps that may represent an attached tick.

The following are tick removal suggestions:

  1. Use a tick removal tool that allows you to avoid squeezing the body of the tick, which could result in squeezing the contents into your body.
  2. Most tick removal tools consist of a notched area that you slide along the skin in order to wedge the neck of the tick into a slot. You then either pop the tick straight up as if on a fulcrum, or some devices require a twisting motion to remove the tick. After the tick is removed, check the bite for tick parts that may remain in the wound.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Avoid folk remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish, petroleum jelly, mayonnaise or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible in order to avoid infection. Don’t wait for the tick to drop off on its own.

If you develop a rash, fever, joint swelling, muscle and/or joint pain, headache, or flu-like symptoms within three to thirty days of removing a tick, see your doctor. While about 70% of individuals who catch Lyme Disease may have the characteristic bulls eye rash, many people do not have this symptom. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely picked up the tick.

Tick-borne illnesses can also be serious for your furry pals. Protect your pets from tick bites by checking your dog or cat for ticks before allowing them inside. Speak to your veterinarian about topical tick repellant available for pets.

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