Arkansas and Oklahoma Department of Health officials urge residents to avoid the tick bites that can lead to various tick-borne illnesses.
According to an Arkansas Department of Health tick-borne disease summary for 2012, there were 2,186 reports of tick-borne disease in Arkansas last year, and public health officials confirmed 918 of them. Five people died. Cases were investigated in 74 of Arkansas’ 75 counties and confirmed in 63 counties, representing all five of the state’s public health regions. Onset of the illnesses ranged from January through December but peaked in June.
According to an Oklahoma Department of Health news release, of 572 cases of tick-borne diseases reported in Oklahoma last year, 64 people or 11 percent required hospitalization, and one person died. So far in 2013, 25 cases of tick-borne illness have been reported to the department’s Acute Disease Service, and five of those were hospitalized.
The states report their data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at Atlanta.
Health officials say symptoms of a tick-borne illness can include fever, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, abdominal pain, a rash or painful swelling of lymph nodes near a tick bite.
According to the Arkansas summary, ticks are responsible for four disease classes: Anaplasmosis, Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis, Ehrlichiosis and Tularemia, all caused by certain bacteria.
Because the diseases can be successfully treated with early diagnosis and antibiotics, people who experience fever or other tick-disease symptoms within 14 days of a tick bite should seek medical attention, the health departments advise.
To prevent tick bites, Oklahoma health officials suggest people participating in outdoor activities:
• Wear light-colored clothing, the better to spot ticks.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants with the hems tucked into socks to make it more difficult for ticks to attach to skin.
• Wear closed-toe shoes.
• Stay in the center of trails to better avoid grass and brush, the usual hiding place for ticks.
• Check your body for ticks at least daily, and especially along the waist, hairline, back of the neck, armpit and groin areas. Remove attached ticks using tweezers or fingers covered with a tissue.
• Repel ticks with an insect repellent containing DEET. Follow the directions on the container as some repellents should be used only on clothing.
• Check with a veterinarian about controlling ticks on your pets because they are susceptible to tick-borne illnesses and can bring ticks into your home.