Creepy crawlies are out in full force, and a mild winter has this tick season shaping up to be a real doozy.
Doctors across the country are already seeing a spike in tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection spread by deer ticks.
Dana Edwards, infection prevention coordinator at Cox in Branson, Mo., said following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a good way to protect yourself.
The CDC recommends wearing light-colored clothing when going outside to make it easier to spot ticks. Use insect repellents containing DEET on any exposed skin and be sure to check clothing, hair and skin for ticks every day. Immediately remove ticks with tweezers, then clean the area with soap and water. Make sure to have someone help search hard to reach areas such as the back, neck and scalp.
Edwards also suggests being on the lookout for unusual symptoms if a tick bites you, including body aches, fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck or paralysis. Those could be signs of tick-borne diseases.
According to the CDC, roughly 95 percent of Lyme disease cases are reported in 14 states, mostly in the northeast. However, a warmer winter is expanding the affected area to the upper Midwest, including parts of Missouri.
As Lyme disease cases increase, doctors worry that could also be an increase in other tick-borne illnesses, such as the rare but dangerous Powassan virus. The Powassan virus can be fatal and survivors often suffer permanent brain damage. Unlike Lyme disease, which can take ticks an entire day to transmit to people, Powassan pathogens are passed on in just 15 minutes – making it essential to immediately remove ticks and treat the area.
Even though cases of Powassan are still very rare, the debilitating side effects are just another reason to be cautious when outdoors and be aware of how to safely remove ticks.
The bottom line, Edwards said, is just be aware of your surroundings and take all precautions to prevent bites in the first place.
Brandei Clifton is the communications coordinator/corporate communications for CoxHealth.


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