Ticks are out for the summer and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) is alerting the public of the potential health hazards associated with tick-borne diseases.
MDHSS announced June 5 that Missouri had its first deadly case of a tick-borne illness recently.
Family members of a 74-year-old man from the St. Louis area told MDHSS that the man had found an attached tick on him after coming back from a fishing trip.
According to MDHSS, "The man's illness progressed rapidly over the course of several days and his condition did not improve, despite hospitalization and antibiotic treatment. Though active and generally healthy, the man did have underlying health problems common to senior citizens that may have contributed to his death."
A laboratory analysis confirmed that the man was infected with a bacteria that causes ehrlichiosis. The man was one of nine patients to have a confirmed tick-borne illness in Missouri reported to MDHSS. A total of four tick-borne diseases have been reported in Missouri. They are Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and a Lyme-like disease called the southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI).
According to MDHSS, "Ehrlichiosis, a disease similar to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, can cause symptoms ranging from a mild, flu-like infection to a serious illness with potentially life-threatening complications, including kidney failure and difficulty breathing."
"Senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to serious tick-borne infections," Missouri's State Public Health Veterinarian Howard Pue said. "So, I want to stress the importance of taking the necessary precautions to prevent tick bites."
He said people should consistently use insect repellents with 20 to 50 percent DEET and keep pets and livestock tick-free. People should also check themselves, children and pets for ticks when they've been outside.
"To keep ticks out of the yard, home owners should clear leaf litter, tall grass and brush away from the house," according to MDHSS.
MDHSS advises, "People should consider contacting their health care provider if symptoms develop following exposure to ticks. The key symptoms to watch for after a tick bite are a fever and severe headache, sometimes with chills, body aches, nausea or vomiting. Symptoms usually appear five to 10 days after the bite. The rashes that can occur with Missouri tick-borne diseases usually do not appear until a person has been ill for four of five days."
"State health department officials have documented a 300 percent increase in tick-borne disease in Missouri since 2003," according to MDHSS. "Public health investigations have identified 11 Missouri deaths linked to tick-borne illness during that time. Improved physician recognition and reporting of these illnesses may account for some of the increase."