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Message from the State Health Officer

Donald E. Williamson, M.D.

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Tick Season is HereóAvoid Tick Bites

Ticks arenít just a nuisance, they carry many diseases that can have devastating effects. These spider-like insects are second only to mosquitoes in transmitting disease. Although it may be no larger than a pinpoint, a single tick can lay 3,000 eggs, and our unusually cold winter didnít reduce their numbers.

Three species of ticks are endemic in Alabama, and they are commonly known as Deer, American Dog, and Lone Star ticks. Tick bites can cause anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, rickettsiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Southern tick-associated rash illness, and tularemia. In 2013, the Alabama Department of Public Health Epidemiology Division conducted 1,137 investigations of tickborne diseases with 290 confirmed cases. However, the actual number may be greater because not all tickborne diseases are reportable in Alabama.

Reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against the diseases they carry. While you should take preventive measures against ticks throughout the year, be extra vigilant in the warmer months of April through September when ticks are most active.

People most at risk from tick-borne diseases are outdoor enthusiasts, outdoor workers, pet owners and veterinarians, and anyone else who ventures into tick-infested areas.

The following are some tips to avoid tick bites:

  • Stay away from wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, and walk in the center of trails.
  • Tuck pants into socks to keep ticks off your legs and wear light-colored clothing to help you spot ticks.
  • Use insect repellants that contain 20 percent or more DEET on exposed skin and permethrin on clothing. Permethrin should not be used directly on the skin.
  • Pay special attention when applying insect repellent products to childrenís skin, being sure to avoid their hands, eyes, and mouths. Repellents that contain DEET must be reapplied every few hours.
  • Use available products to help prevent tick infestations on pets.

After outdoor activity:

  • Inspect children, pets, clothing, and outdoor gear, such as backpacks, for ticks.
  • Bathe within two hours.
  • Conduct a full-body check with a mirror, including hair and scalp.

How do I remove a tick?

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure.
  • Do not twist or jerk the tick, because it may cause the mouth to break off and remain in
    the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth with tweezers.
  • If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with 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.
  • Do not paint the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or use heat to make the tick
    detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible.
  • Tumble dry clothing on a high heat setting for one hour to kill any missed ticks.

Where can I find more information?

Go to cdc.gov and type Ticks in SEARCH box, and if you suspect you may have a tickborne infection, please contact your health care provider.

(June 2014)

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