Early arrival of ticks in Arkansas causes concerns over Powassan virus

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Social media has those who love the outdoors concerned about a tick-borne illness called the Powassan virus.

With no harsh winter here in Arkansas and summer right around the corner, it's the perfect time for people to go hiking and exploring the outdoors. But, that weather also has ticks out earlier than usual.

The Arkansas Department of Health doesn't think Powassan is a threat for Arkansans, but experts with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service note ticks making an appearance in the Natural State as early as February. They're here and they're active

“A lot of people just think that it's no big deal," said Lori Lynn Sikes, found of Arkansas Tick-borne Illness. "It's Arkansas you're going to get tick bites.”

The warm winter has created a perfect host environment for ticks. Susan Weinstein, a public health veterinarian, said that with the presence of more ticks because the weather, people have to more aware of how they can prevent any potential disease threat. 

“Should you have any symptoms you need to inform the doctor you've had a tick bite,” Weinstein said. 

To steer clear of ticks this season Weinstein suggested using insect repellant and avoiding wooded areas when possible. 

Symptoms and signs to look for include fever, body aches, or rashes.

“I had these odd rashes. The doctor just thought it was an allergic reaction and then shingles. But it wasn't,” Sikes said, recalling her history with a tick-borne illness. “People need to be educated and aware, so does our medical community as far as continuing their education on the latest research and what's out there and affecting the people of Arkansas."

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most known tick-borne disease in Arkansas.

If you've been outside, look all over and remove the tick as soon as you can.

“Especially in creases and folds of the body,” Weinstein said.

The Arkansas Department of Health also stressed the importance of proper removal. Don't use old wives' tales like the twisting method or lighting the tick with a flame or match. Instead, just pinch and pull straight up off the skin.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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