Now that the weather is warming up, people are starting to head outdoors again. Those walking through tall grass need to remember to look out for ticks.
In the Omaha metro area, the most common tick is the American dog tick, said Jonathan Larson, an entomology educator with University of Nebraska Extension. The tick can be found all across Nebraska.
“And then if you go into wooded areas and if you head out to central and southern Nebraska,” Larson said, “you might find the Lone Star tick as well.”
The biggest concern someone would have with a bite from the American dog tick, Larson said, is Rocky Mountain spotted fever or tularemia.
Most people who get sick with Rocky Mountain spotted fever will have a fever, headache and rash, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can be deadly if not treated early with the right antibiotic.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says that every year, the state epidemiologist’s office receives reports of between six and 31 patients with Rocky Mountain spotted fever. HHS says the disease should be something that patients and doctors alike should consider if the person has a fever and has been exposed to environments where ticks could be active.
From 2015 through 2017, the department said, 42 cases of tularemia were reported in Nebraska. While the disease can be fatal, it usually is successfully cured with antibiotics.
Symptoms of tularemia may include sudden fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, a dry cough or progressive weakness. People also can develop pneumonia with chest pain, cough and difficulty breathing.
Ticks can be found in areas with tall grass, Larson said.
“They tend to be at the end of a long blade of grass and grab a hold of you as you walk by,” he said.
The Lone Star tick carries Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, which Larson notes is very similar to Lyme disease.
“It also carries the Alpha-gal allergy, which has the allergy component that makes you allergic to red meat,” Larson said.
Ticks that carry Lyme disease aren’t established in Nebraska, HHS says.
When it comes to avoiding ticks, Larson said, people should wear long pants and tuck them into their socks. People also could apply insect repellent. Larson recommends Permethrin for long hikes and camping.
The CDC recommends wearing long sleeves and long pants; using an insect repellent with 20-30 percent DEET; bathing or showering shortly after coming inside; and checking yourself, pets and gear that traveled with you for hitchhiking ticks.
For more information about tick-bite prevention and symptoms and tick removal and distribution, go to https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html