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Early tick season hits

The Tennessee Department of Health has reported an increase in the number of cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever compared to this time last year. With a mild winter and an early spring, Tennessee is seeing an increase in the number of diseases carried by ticks. By mid-May, there have been 74 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever reported statewide.
According to Dr. David Kirschke, Health Officer for Johnson County and Medical Director of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office, Tennessee has seen a 300 percent increase in tick-borne diseases this season. Typically, the tick season starts later in the summer. Only one case has been reported in northeastern Tennessee.
The Tennessee Department of Health is encouraging people to check themselves, their children and pets frequently for ticks, very small insects that will feed on the blood of dogs, deer and people. Ticks can be found in cool, moist and heavily wooded areas. Keeping the lawn mowed and clearing leaves close to the house can help reduce the tick population. If possible, stay out of wooded areas and walk on cleared pathways as ticks can also be found along the edge of treed locations.
The best course of action against tick-borne diseases begins with searching the entire body, including the hair. Check the head and scalp carefully. Consider wearing a hat and tuck your pants into socks to help keep ticks off your legs. Kirschke recommends wearing light-colored clothing that allows ticks to be spotted quickly. Insect repellents that contain DEET can be applied to the skin, but needs to be reapplied every few hours. Spray your clothes with products such as Permethrin, a repellent that helps keep ticks and chiggers at bay. Should you find a tick on your body, remove it immediately by grabbing the head firmly with tweezers if it has embedded itself into the skin. Pull upward with steady pressure to remove the entire tick. According to Kirschke, do not squeeze the body of the tick as the liquid could make its way into the wound. Removing a tick within 12 to 24 hours can help prevent disease. Clean the area afterward. Ticks can often roam around the body anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour before they bite. If you find one tick, keep on looking, there could be more.
There are several types of ticks that will feed on any warm-blooded animal, including humans. Difficult to spot, the American Dog tick, also known as the wood tick, is the most common one found in Tennessee and it feeds on dogs and people. Less than a quarter of an inch long, these insects are typically the most active in the early summer months. They carry several diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is considered the most serious tick-borne disease in the United States and the most common in the State of Tennessee. If not treated correctly, the disease can be fatal. Symptoms typically appear anywhere from two to 14 days following a bite from an infected tick. For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.