Health

Lyme disease cases increasing statewide as tick season begins

A deer tick, or blacklegged tick, is seen on a blade of grass. Public health officials are warning Iowans that tick season is upon us and to take preventive measures to avoid the ticks, which carry Lyme disease and Rock Mountain spotted fever. (Reuters)
A deer tick, or blacklegged tick, is seen on a blade of grass. Public health officials are warning Iowans that tick season is upon us and to take preventive measures to avoid the ticks, which carry Lyme disease and Rock Mountain spotted fever. (Reuters)
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It’s tick season in Iowa, and state public health officials are encouraging people to be cautious as they head outdoors.

In recent years, Iowa has seen a surge in tick-borne illnesses — in particular, Lyme disease — and the Iowa Department of Public Health is warning residents to take preventive measures as they enjoy the warm weather.

Ticks carry organisms that cause diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but the most common is Lyme disease, an inflammatory disease that results in a rash, fevers and chills and can lead to arthritis and possible neurological and cardiac disorders.

In 2017, 254 cases of Lyme disease were reported to public health officials, according to preliminary counts.

That’s up from the 232 confirmed cases reported in 2016 and nearly triples the 87 cases reported in 2010.

Most cases occur in the eastern half of the state, according to the department.

Between 2000 and 2016, Johnson County recorded the most confirmed cases — 359 — of any Iowa county, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Linn County had the second highest number of cases in Iowa, with 202 cases.

Throughout the nation, insect-borne illnesses — from mosquito, tick and flea bites — tripled between 2004 and 2016, according to a CDC report released Tuesday.

In 2004, 27,388 cases were reported. By 2016, the number was 96,075.

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The actual number of people who have become sick from Lyme disease, however, could be much higher, in part because many infections are not reported or recognized, officials say.

Those who are bitten by a tick and infected with Lyme disease usually see a rash appear around the site of the bite within a few days to a month.

“The rash will first look like a small, red bump, then expand until it begins to look like a bull’s-eye, with a red center and a red ring surrounding a clear area,” according to the public health officials.

Individuals with that kind of rash, or with any flu-like symptoms within a month of having a tick bite, should contact their health care provider immediately.

If you do discover a tick on your body, state health officials say it should be removed right away.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

The Washington Post contributed to this article.

REMOVING a tick

Here are the best methods to remove a tick:

l Carefully grasp the tick by its mouthparts, which are close to the skin, with tweezers. Do not squeeze the tick’s body.

l Pull directly away from your skin. Because removing the tick’s body is your main goal, don’t worry if its mouthparts break off in the process.

l Clean the wound and disinfect the site of the bite.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

preventing tick bites

l Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

l Walk in the center of trails.

l Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours.

l Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents, with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.

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l Use the Environmental Protection Agency’s online tool to help you select the repellent that is best for you and your family at epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-insect-repellent-right-you.

Source: Iowa Department of Public Health

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