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Tick Fever cases on the rise in Arkansas

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"I thought I was getting a cold," said Jeff Van Buhler. "Then I was achy and hot-cold, hot-cold and I knew what I had."

What Buhler had, two weeks ago, was a form of tick fever.

He knew it because he experienced his first case two years ago.

"The first time was actually much worse, but I was surprised I got it so soon this time, because it is so early in the season," Van Buhler added.

The Arkansas Department of Health indicates prime tick season is underway and it has already seen an increase in tick fever cases, compared with last year.

"Generally speaking, moisture is a good things for ticks," said Department of Health spokesperson Ed Barham. "The wet spring in most of Arkansas helped produce a lot of ticks."

As people are venturing out to work or play outdoors, ticks are latching on and, as they feast on human blood, they pass on toxins and organisms that can make people sick.

"In Arkansas, big hard (bodied) ticks carry ehrlichiosis and tularemia," said Barham. "Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is carried by small American Dog Ticks. It can be fatal."

The good news is, Lyme Disease, another very serious form of tick fever, is generally not seen in Arkansas.

According to Barham, tick fever symptoms often include flu-like symptoms like fever, nausea and weakness. Numbness, rashes, confusion and joint pain and swelling are other symptoms that can develop.

The best tick fever prevention is to stay out of high grass and weedy areas, and to use an inspect repellant containing Deet when you do go outside.

"It you go to Tick City, you're going to get ticks," said Barham, of people who love the outdoors. "A full body tick check should become a habit, when you return indoors. If you discover a tick that has attached itself, you should use fine tip tweezers. Place them as close to the skin as possible and pull it out steadily and firmly."

Don't jerk or twist the tick because it is important to remove the "head and mouth part" of the tick, where toxins are found.

After removal, clean the area with rubbing alcohol and soap and water.

According to emedicinehealth.com, it is not unusual for there to be redness, itching and burning in the area where a tick bite is found. That is a local infection, which should heal quickly.

The biggest threat is the possibility a tick attached itself long enough to pass on infections.

Those symptoms do not usually appear for a few days or even weeks.

If you go to the doctor because of flu-like symptoms, it is important to mention if you have encountered and removed ticks from your body.

"If a physician knows you have encountered ticks, he can, using his clinical experience, consider whether tick fever may be the cause of your illness, and prescribe antibiotics to treat you," said Barham. "All too often, people forget about a tick bite or just don't mention it."

Jeff Van Buhler's job puts him at high risk for tick and tick fever, since he works outside in wooded areas, bulldozing and spreading gravel.

"I am more careful than I used to be, as far using insect spray and checking for ticks when I get back home," said Van Buhler. "Tick fever is no fun. You just feel terrible. It's like you are living with a black cloud inside your head."

Besides using a Deet based insect repellant, Barham says hikers should try to walk in the middle of trails and campers can spray the repellant on boots, socks, tents and sleeping bags to try to keep ticks away.

Those who spend a lot of time outdoors may want to try clothing that is pre-treated with repellant and holds up to repeated washings.

One other tip: put clothing you wore outside into a dryer set on high for one hour to kill ticks you may have brought in.

"You can get pretty sick from tick fever," said Barham, "and it can be fatal. But, while the number of tick fever cases are up, fatalities are decreasing, because the medical community is better trained to diagnose and treat it."

The web site, emedicinehealth.com, puts the threat of harm from ticks into sharp perspective when it writes, "Ticks are the leading carriers of diseases in the United States, second only to mosquitos worldwide. It is not the tick bite but the toxins, secretions or organisms in the tick's saliva transmitted through the bite, that causes the disease."

In other words, cicadas were a noisy nuisance this spring, but ticks are downright dangerous and precautions should be taken to avoid them.

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One thing you might want to add is that you can have relapses from tick fever. The severity can be worse as well. My Dad has had tick fever, he is real allergic to tick bites. He had tick fever last year, and was sick for a few weeks. He had a relapse this year and nearly died from it. Had we not taken him to the hospital when we did, he would not have made it. It's real important to get medical attention if you have any of the symptoms.

-- Posted by goatgirl on Sun, Jul 10, 2011, at 3:44 PM

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