LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Perhaps because of the mild winters over the last few years, Arkansas is seeing a marked increase of reports of tick-related illnesses.
Last year's case reports totaled more than 650 cases, nearly triple that in 2010. And this year we are on pace to have even higher numbers.
Because many of these illnesses go unreported, the actual number of persons made ill from tick-related illness is much higher.
Clay Hoffman stays fairly busy who works full time and is attending college. It may seem like a pain to some.
"Typical arthritis I guess. A little unusual for a 21 year old though, " says Hoffmann who has experienced much worse.
"At first it was just, 'Well, get some antinflamatories, some muscle relaxers, you probably just pulled your back out. Then, I had a night of a hundred and four point three fever and that point we said well there is something more to it," says Hoffman.
At 16 years old, Hoffman came in contact with a nearly fatal condition.
"I was mowing my lawn and went in afterwards to get a shower. I had a tick. All of thirty minutes probably, pulled it off just like any other tick, no big deal," says Hoffmann.
But it became a big deal. Two months later, Hoffman discovered he had Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever, a disease brought on by a type of bacteria carried by ticks. Five years later, he still deals with the affects.
"I've got arthritis from my neck to my tailbone to my shoulders. High fever spikes still randomly, a lot of low grade fever. It's a rare thing but it is in the area," says Hoffmann.
According to Dirk Haselow, M.D., Ph.D., director of Communicable Disease and Immunizations at the Arkansas Department of Health, "Tick-related illnesses are serious and can be deadly if not treated properly."
"It is very important that people realize the seriousness of the infections that some ticks can carry, and to see their doctor if ill," Haselow said. "Thankfully, we can prevent many of these infections if we become aware of the risks and take some simple precautions."
If left untreated, some of these infections can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Steps to prevent disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat.
Four tick-related illnesses are common in Arkansas: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, spread by the American dog tick; Anaplasmosis, spread by the Blacklegged tick; Ehrlichiosis, spread by the Lone Star tick; and Tularemia, spread by many types of ticks and deer fly bites, as well as by rabbits and rodents.
Lyme disease is not native to Arkansas. However, individuals who have travelled to other parts of the country, especially the Northeast and Midwest, might have become infected while visiting out of state.
Symptoms can include the following:
• muscle pain
• abdominal pain
Here are some tips for staying tick-free in Arkansas during the warm months of the year:
• Ticks are most active in spring-summer (April-September)
• Avoid walking in woody or bushy areas, or in tall grass, walk in the center of trails to avoid touching the braches and leaves.
• Ticks will wait on the ends of leaves for a host to come by and brush where they are standing.
• Use products with no more than 30% DEET in them for your skin when you are in areas that could have ticks and use permithrin on clothing and gear. Make sure to follow all directions on the bottle.
• Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. Tuck the pant legs into your socks or boots.
• Wear light color clothing, this will allow you to see ticks easier if one is on your clothing.
• Check your entire body for ticks, especially in the hair and at the hairline, in the ears, underarms, behind the knees, and in the groin.
• Check pets and gear.
• Shower or bathe soon after you come inside.
• Tumble dry clothes on high heat for an hour to kill any ticks that may be on your clothes.
To remove a tick from your skin use a pair of clean fine-tipped tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick upwards at a steady pace. This prevents the mouth parts from breaking off and staying in your skin. If the mouth parts do break off, clean the tweezers and attempt to remove the mouth parts. If you cannot remove the parts just leave them in. Clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water.
According to the CDC these are possible ticks that could be in Arkansas:
• American Dog Tick - mostly spreads Rickettsia rickettsii, which causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever. It can also spread tularemia. These ticks like to feed on dogs and other medium sized mammals, but the will also feed on humans.
• Blacklegged Tick (deer tick) - spreads anaplasmosis. Can spread Lyme disease in other parts of the country, but they do not feed on infected animals in Arkansas, which is why Lyme disease is rare here. Adults ticks feed on birds and small mammals and
• will sometimes feed on humans.
• Brown Dog Tick- spreads Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Arkansas. Dogs are the main host for these ticks. Lone Star Tick - can spread ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and the causal agent for Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI). The white-tailed deer is the main host for these ticks.
• Gulf Coast Tick - can spread Ricketesia parkeri ricketsiosis. Deer and small mammals are the primary hosts for these ticks.
(Source: Arkansas Department of Health)