tick_smartSpring is here, and state health officials are urging Hoosiers to protect themselves from ticks while they are enjoying the outdoors.

Ticks are small, insect-like creatures that are found throughout Indiana in grassy and wooded areas. Ticks can transmit a variety of infectious diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. In 2015, Indiana reported almost 200 cases of tick-borne infectious diseases.

“We’re already hearing reports of tick activity this year,” said Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H., state public health veterinarian at the Indiana State Department of Health. “Ticks become active as soon as the weather starts to warm up. Any tick should be considered capable of transmitting disease, and now is the time to start practicing prevention.”

When entering a grassy or wooded area, Hoosiers should wear a long-sleeved shirt and light-colored pants, with the shirt tucked in at the waist and the pants tucked into socks. People should also wear EPA-registered insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol. People who expect to be exposed to ticks for extended periods of time should consider applying products containing permethrin to their clothing. Permethrin should not be used on bare skin.

Once indoors, people should thoroughly check for ticks on clothing and skin. Ticks usually need to be attached for several hours to a couple of days before they can transmit disease, so timely removal of ticks can prevent disease transmission.

“Early detection and removal of attached ticks can prevent illness,” Dr. Brown said. “We encourage anyone who spends time outdoors in grassy or wooded areas to do thorough tick checks when they come back inside.”

Ticks may be safely removed by using tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin and then pulling upward with steady and even pressure. After the tick is removed, the area should be washed thoroughly and the tick should be discarded by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Ticks should never be crushed with the fingernails.

If a person does become ill after finding an attached tick, he or she should see a medical provider immediately. Tick-borne diseases can all be successfully treated with antibiotics, and prompt diagnosis can help prevent complications.

Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at www.StateHealth.in.gov for important health and safety information, or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1.