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Ticks bites are a common occurrence in Arkansas warm weather.
Hot Springs, Ark. – Tick season is a yearly event in Arkansas.
Warm weather arrival in Arkansas also means arrival of tick season. Cold harsh winters
in Arkansas have little effect on tick populations. Tick species found in Arkansas
are adapted to survive harsh winters. Some species survive the winters in leaf litter,
soil and other protected sites while a few others may survive the winter on their
Arkansas is well known for its abundance of ticks and its fair share of tick-borne
diseases. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and anaplasmosis
are reported nearly every year in Arkansas. Of these illnesses, Rocky Mountain spotted
fever and ehrlichiosis are the most frequently reported tick-borne diseases in the
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is the most prevalent and severe tick-borne disease
in Arkansas. The causal agent of RMSF is the rickettsial bacterium, Rickettsia rickettsia,
which is primarily transmitted in Arkansas through the bite of an infected American
dog tick. Early clinical symptoms of RMSF are nonspecific and may resemble a variety
of other infectious and noninfectious diseases. Early symptoms may include fever,
nausea, vomiting, severe headache, muscle pain and lack of appetite. A rash of small,
flat, pink, non-itchy spots on the wrists, forearms and ankles may (or may not) first
appear two to five days after the onset of fever. Often the rash varies from this
description, and people who fail to develop a rash or who develop an atypical rash
are at increased risk of being misdiagnosed. The red to purple, spotted rash of RMSF
is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs
in 35 to 60 percent of patients with the infection. Many people with RMSF do not
remember being bitten by a tick.
Ehrlichiosis refers to several human and animal diseases caused by infection with
bacteria in the genus Ehrlichia. Human ehrlichiosis occurs primarily in the southeastern
and south-central regions of the country and is transmitted by the lone star tick,
Amblyomma americanum, one of the most abundant ticks found in Arkansas. Human ehrlichiosis
symptoms vary from mild to severe and may include fever, headache, malaise and muscle
ache. Rashes are uncommon with adult ehrlichiosis patients; however, about 60 percent
of pediatric patients may develop a rash. Ehrlichiosis is a serious illness that
can be fatal if not treated correctly, even in previously healthy people. Prompt
antibiotic treatment is advised for patients suspected of having ehrlichiosis.
Lyme disease is spread through the bite of the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis)
infected with thespirochete bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. The tick bite is painless,
so most victims do not know they have been bitten. Although the spirochete bacterium
responsible for Lyme disease has been found in deer, canines and ticks in Arkansas,
the risk of acquiring this disease in Arkansas is currently considered low. Arkansas
Department of Health authorities indicate that Lyme disease is not native to Arkansas,
but individuals traveling to Midwestern and Northeastern states could become infected.
Lyme disease symptoms often imitate the symptoms of many other diseases. Lyme disease
symptoms also appear in stages. The classic sign of the early stage, which begins
a few days to a few weeks after the bite of an infected tick, is a slowly expanding
red rash that may fade in the center as it spreads away from the tick bite location.
It is often described as looking like a bull’s-eye with alternating light and dark
rings. However, it can vary from a reddish blotchy appearance to red throughout.
Other early symptoms may include flu-like symptoms, such as mild headaches, sore
throat, swollen lymph nodes, stiff and painful muscles and joints, fatigue and low
fever. If any of these symptoms appear, seek prompt medical attention.
Tips to Avoid Tick Bites:
1. Avoid tick-infested areas when possible. Tick-infested areas may include dense
vegetation or tall grass, and the “edge” between open and forested areas.
2. Use tick repellents and apply according to label instructions. Insect repellents
containing DEET (on clothing only) and repellents containing permethrin are most commonly
3. Find and remove ticks. (A) Check yourself, your children and pets frequently for
ticks. (B) Wear light-colored clothing when in tick infested areas, as dark ticks
are more easily spotted against a light background. (C) After returning home, thoroughly
inspect yourself with aid of a mirror. (D) Parents should check their children for
ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the
knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair. (E) Bathe
or shower as soon as possible after returning from a tick infested area to wash off
crawling ticks and locate attached ticks.
4. Promptly remove ticks when found. If a tick is removed within a few hours after
attachment, the chance of that tick transmitting a pathogen is greatly reduced. (A)
Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as
possible. (B) Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick;
this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens,
remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth-parts
easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. (C) After removing
the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine
scrub or soap and water. (D) Examine gear. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing
and then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats and day packs.
(E) Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some
research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if
the clothing is not wet.)
5. Create a tick-safe zone in your yard. (A) Clear tall grasses and brush around
homes and at the edge of lawns. (B) Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel
between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict
tick migration into recreational areas. (C) Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves
raked. (D) Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed
on). (E) Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees
and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
6. Know the symptoms of tick-borne disease. If you become sick and see a healthcare
provider, alert them to any tick exposure.
For much more on ticks and the diseases they cause go to our website at www.uaex.uada.edu
and search FSA 7047, “Tick-Borne Diseases in Arkansas”.
By Allen Bates County Extension Agent - AgricultureThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Allen Bates County Extension Agent - Agriculture U of A Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service 236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901 (501) 623-6841 email@example.com
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
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