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How to avoid and treat tick bites in Mississippi

With summer time in full swing, make sure you are being mindful of ticks. Much like mosquitoes, ticks are more prevalent in the summer time in Mississippi, and Dr. Paul Byers, the state epidemiologist with the Department of Health, warns that there are a couple of ticks that can spread bacterial illnesses that could be life threatening.

“When we get into the summer we know that there’s a whole lot more ticks out there,” said Dr. Byers. “People are outdoors more and there’s more opportunities to be exposed to ticks so it’s important to avoid those exposures and reduce the risk down the road.”

Dr. Byers said the most important tick born disease seen in Mississippi is rocky mountain spotted fever, which is a bacterial infection transmitted through a tick bite. He said this can cause a sudden on set of fever, severe headaches and gastro-intestinal problems.

“If you have a child and you know that you’ve been in an area where there’s a potential for exposure to ticks, or if you know you’ve been bitten by a tick and you develop a rash and a fever, then it is time to go to the doctor,” said Dr. Byers. “The doctor can start you on some medications that can prevent the progression of that infection.”

Dr. Byers said it it can become fatal very quickly so it is very important to go to the doctor especially when it involves children.

He said you can also develop tick paralysis from a tick bite but that resolves when you remove the tick and it is not infectious.

He also said they recommend trying to avoid tick exposures during the summer just like with mosquitoes. This can be done by using appropriate repellent such as DEET. The EPA also has a list of things that you can use.

“If you know that you’ve been out in an area where there’s potential for tick exposure, make sure you don’t see any ticks on your clothes when you come back in. Do a tick check for yourself and look because ticks are pretty small and they can hide in areas,” said Dr. Byers. “Remove them immediately when you find them because for most of that transmission to occur that tick has to be attached for several hours so the sooner you do that check, the sooner you remove those ticks and decrease the risk of developing one of those infections.”

He said ticks can be removed by taking tweezers and getting down to the mouth part as close to the skin as you can and pulling up.

“We would like for you to get the mouth parts but if you don’t that’s not going to cause infection,” said Dr. Byers.

He also added that ticks can also be found on animals so if live in a wooded area be sure to check your pets for ticks also.

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