Health officials say tick-borne illnesses continuing to rise in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – State health officials say tick-borne diseases are on the rise around Indiana.

The Indiana State Department of Health said more than 100 such illnesses have been reported so far this year, including one death due to ehrlichiosis. Deaths from ehrlichiosis are relatively rare in Indiana, with only four deaths reported in the last five years.

Ticks tend to be the most active during the late spring and early summer. They can transmit several different diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Last year, there were more than 250 cases of tick-borne illness reported in the Hoosier State.

“Cases of tick-borne disease tend to peak in July,” said Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H., state public health veterinarian at the Indiana State Department of Health. “You should take precautions to prevent tick bites whenever you spend time outdoors. Call your health care provider right away if you develop a flu-like illness or a rash during the summer months.”

Symptoms of a tick-born disease can include a rash near the bite area and a flu-like illness with symptoms like a headache, muscle or joint pain and fever.

The health department said Hoosiers can reduce their chance of tick bites by following these recommendations:

  • Wearing a long-sleeved shirt and light-colored pants, with the shirt tucked in at the waist and the pants tucked into socks, if they will be in grassy or wooded areas
  • Treating clothing and outdoor gear with 0.5% permethrin, an insect repellent commonly used for this purpose. Note that permethrin should NOT be used on bare skin
  • Using EPA-registered insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undecanone
  • Treating pets for ticks

After you’ve been outdoors, check thoroughly for ticks on clothing, gear, pets and skin. Health officials recommend showering to help remove any unattached ticks. Putting your clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes on high heat will kill any ticks on clothing.

If you do find one, use tweezers to grab the tick and pull it out with steady, even pressure. Once removed, wash the affected area thoroughly.

Health officials recommend getting rid of the tick by discarding it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet.

For more resources concerning ticks, visit the Indiana State Department of Health website.