Take steps to prevent getting sick from ticks

Spring finally seems to have arrived in the North Woods. As the trees leaf out and the days grow longer, the urge to get outdoors grows as well, looking for birds, hunting for morels, just enjoying a nice walk on a warm day after so many months of snow and ice, especially when the bulk of the biting insects has yet to emerge.

Unfortunately, one pest already is lurking out there, ready to pounce.

The Florence County Health Department is reminding residents to protect themselves against ticks. Common in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, ticks can spread illnesses such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and, more rarely, Powassan virus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Lyme disease is the most common illness spread by ticks in Wisconsin. It has spread to every county in the state over the past three decades; in 2018, more than 3,105 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Wisconsin, and it’s estimated many more cases were unreported. Florence County has seen a significant increase in reported cases of Lyme disease, with 12 confirmed cases in 2017.

Many people who get sick from a tick-borne illness do not remember getting bit. The common symptoms of illnesses spread by ticks include fever, rash, headache, body aches and fatigue. Most diseases spread by ticks in Wisconsin, including Lyme disease, can be treated with antibiotics. Contact the family physician if symptoms develop that might point to being bitten by a tick.

Tick bites are preventable. Florence County advises when spending time outdoors, take these steps to be better protected from ticks:

Before going outdoors —

— Use an insect repellent with at least 20% DEET or another EPA-registered repellent, according to the label instructions.

— Use 0.5% permethrin products on clothing, socks and shoes, according to label instructions.

— Wear long sleeves and pants, and tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants to avoid ticks crawling under clothing.

— Use a veterinarian-prescribed tick prevention treatment on pets.

While outdoors —

— Walk in the center of trails and do not brush up against plants on the edge of trails.

— Avoid wooded and brushy areas with tall grass and leaves.

After being outdoors —

— Check your entire body for ticks. Have someone check areas you cannot see.

— Take a shower as soon as possible after coming in from outdoors.

— Place clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks on clothing.

When outdoors, take a tick bite kit to prevent Lyme disease that contains alcohol swabs, bandages, insect repellent wipes that contain DEET, tweezers, mini plastic bag to keep removed tick for identification, and a small plastic pouch to store supplies and for easy carrying and access.

The Florence County Health Department has Fight the Bite tick removal kits available for $1 at select sites. Call the Florence County Health Department at 715-528-4837 for more information or go to the website at www.florencecountywi.com.

The Florence County Health Department is on the first floor of the courthouse, at 501 Lake Ave. in Florence, Wis. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, except when closed for lunch from noon to 12:30 p.m.

More information on tick bite prevention also can be found at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/tick/index.htm.

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