Indiana health officials are urging Hoosiers to protect themselves from tick bites while outdoors as warmer weather increases tick activity. Reported cases of tick-borne disease continue to increase each year in Indiana, with more than 300 cases reported to the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) in 2019.
ISDH has found adult and immature ticks, or nymphs, carrying Lyme disease bacteria in many Indiana counties, particularly in the northwest and west central parts of the state. In addition, the black-legged tick, which carries Lyme disease, has been found in all but five Indiana counties. Maps displaying tick infection rates are available at https://www.in.gov/isdh/28130.htm, and a map showing the distribution of the black-legged tick is available at https://www.in.gov/isdh/28005.htm.
“We know that many Hoosiers are engaging in outdoor activities such as walking, running and hiking while the stay-at-home order is in place,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H. “All Hoosiers should take precautions against tick bites when enjoying the outdoors, no matter where they are.”
Ticks can transmit several diseases in addition to Lyme disease, such as ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so preventing tick bites can protect Hoosiers from all tick-borne illnesses, Brown said.
Hoosiers can reduce their risk of tick bites by:
• 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, which is an insect repellent specifically designed for this purpose (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 their pets for ticks
Once indoors, people should thoroughly check for ticks on clothing, gear, pets and skin. Tumbling clothes in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes will kill ticks, and showering can help remove any unattached ticks.
“Tick checks are an essential part of preventing tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease. Quickly finding and removing a tick can help prevent you from becoming sick,” Brown said.
Ticks may be safely removed by using tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin and then pulling outward with steady and even pressure. After the tick is removed, the area should be washed thoroughly. The tick should be discarded by submerging 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.
Anyone who becomes ill after finding an attached tick should see a medical provider immediately and alert the provider to the exposure. Tick-borne diseases can be treated with antibiotics, and prompt diagnosis can help prevent complications.
For more information about ticks and how to prevent the diseases they carry, see the ISDH website at http://www.in.gov/isdh/20491.htm. You also can visit ISDH 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/StateHealthIN.