Health officials warn people to remain alert for ticks as Lyme disease cases increase

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(WJHL) – Summer is starting to wind down, but experts are reminding everyone that ticks are still out in full force.

In 2019 so far, the Tennessee Department of Health has had 37 Lyme disease cases reported, and 275 Spotted Fever cases. In Virginia, there have been 438 Lyme disease cases and 164 Spotted Fever reports.

Jamie Swift is the corporate director for infection prevention at Ballad Health. She said ticks are present year-round and it is imperative to prepare even before you find a tick.

You can find this blood-sucking nuisance in moist, wooded areas.

“It’s really important for people to be aware, to know that they may have been in an area that had ticks, to do the check,” Swift said.

Therefore, it is important to stay protected while spending time outside.

“Long sleeves, long pants. I know it’s hard in the summer months, but as much as you can wear. Long covering so the ticks don’t have a chance to embed in your skin,” Swift said.

Even weeks after removing a tick, take note of possible symptoms.

She explained, “If you see that bullseye rash, absolutely go see a provider, but other than that headaches, fever, rashes in general. It’s really important to relay to your provider that you may have had a tick exposure.

Veterinarians explain you need to watch for ticks on your pets as well.

“We’ve had very mild winters comparatively and I think as a result of that, we saw a very early appearance of ticks in this area, especially in southwestern Virginia,” Dr. Margaret Rucker with Southwest Virginia Veterinary Services said.

The ticks are more subtle in animals than in humans.

“Even though we can test for Lyme Disease sometimes in the peracute stage, when the dog is really sick with it, they may test negative,” Dr. Rucker said. “Ticks can hide anywhere in places on your pet that you wouldn’t think: down in the ear canal is a common place to find ticks. We found them in its mouth, we found them up under the gums.”

Over time, Dr. Rucker has also seen even the most commercialized products become less effective.

“Most of the oral products, if not all of the oral products for dogs are dispensed only through veterinarians just because these are very potent drugs and they have to be, it’s all based on body weight,” Dr. Rucker said.

As for hikers, officials tell me ticks seem to be quite heavy in the area right now so they advise you to cover up and to use products like permethrin on your clothes and gear.

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