(UNDATED) – Indiana health officials are encouraging Hoosiers to protect themselves from tick bites while outdoors as warmer temperatures bring an increase in tick activity across the state.
Recent field sampling by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has found adult and immature ticks (nymphs) carrying the bacterium that causes Lyme disease in a number of counties, particularly in the northern, west-central, and south-central parts of the state.
“Our fieldwork shows that ticks are carrying Lyme disease in multiple regions within our state,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H. “However, 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 spotted fever rickettsioses like Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Preventing tick bites can protect Hoosiers from all tick-borne illnesses, Brown said.
Hoosiers can reduce the 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
- Conducting frequent tick checks while outdoors
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.
“Quickly finding and removing a tick can help prevent you from becoming sick,” Brown said. “Use a mirror or the buddy system to check your entire body for ticks, bearing in mind that immature ticks can be no larger than a poppy seed.”
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 with soap and water. 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.
These maps show the percentage of adult and nymph Ixodes scapularis ticks (black-legged ticks) collected during 2017-2018 that were infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. The ticks were collected in the field by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) and tested at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This map will be updated as ISDH continues to conduct surveillance for B. burgdorferi in ticks.
Counties colored darker blue had higher percentages of infected ticks, while counties colored lighter blue had lower percentages of infected ticks. Counties colored white had ticks collected, but none were positive. Counties colored light grey had sampling conducted, but no Ixodes scapularis ticks were found. Counties colored dark grey did not have sampling conducted during 2017-2018.
Each county is labeled with the number of ticks that were tested. The reported percentages from counties with small numbers of ticks tested (fewer than 50) should be interpreted with caution. For example, a county with only one tick tested would be colored darker blue if that tick were positive for B. burgdorferi, but this is not enough data to draw conclusions about the entire county.
These data are intended to provide members of the public and health care providers with information on where ticks infected with B. burgdorferi have been detected in Indiana. However, it is important to remember that black-legged ticks have been found in most Indiana counties. In addition, other tick-borne diseases such as ehrlichiosis and the spotted fever group rickettsioses are present in Indiana but are not shown on this map. Hoosiers should take precautions against tick bites when spending time outdoors in all parts of the state.
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/isdh1.