Officials: warmer weather brings increased risk of tick-borne disease
Indiana health officials urge Hoosiers to protect themselves from tick bites while outdoors as warmer weather increases tick activity.
Indiana Dept. of Health entomologists have found the black-legged tick, which can carry pathogens that cause Lyme disease, babesiosis and other diseases, in all but three Indiana counties. Lyme disease bacteria have been detected in adult and immature black-legged ticks in many Indiana counties, especially in the northwest and west central parts of the state, where the largest numbers of human Lyme disease cases are reported.
In July 2020, a babesiosis case with strong evidence of local tick-borne transmission was detected in northern Indiana for the first time.
“We know that Hoosiers are eager to resume outdoor activities and attend seasonal events that were canceled last year,” said Jennifer Brown, state public health veterinarian. “All Hoosiers should take precautions against tick bites when enjoying the outdoors, no matter where they are.”
While Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Indiana, Hoosiers are also at risk for other tick-borne diseases, such as ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Heartland virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and related diseases. Residents of Southern Indiana are at greater risk for ehrlichiosis, which is associated with the bite of the lone star tick.
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, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone.
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.
“Tick checks are an essential part of preventing tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease,” Brown said. “Quickly finding and removing a tick can help prevent you from becoming sick.”
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. 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 Indiana Dept. of Health’s website at http://www.in.gov/isdh/20491.htm. A map showing the distribution of the black-legged tick is available at https://www.in.gov/isdh/28005.htm, and maps displaying tick infection rates are available at https://www.in.gov/isdh/28130.htm.