WASHINGTON — With the recent rainfall, the local health department as well as many local veterinarians said do not be surprised if you see more ticks not only on people but also on animals.
Kathy Sullender, Daviess County Public Health nurse recently attended a seminar on various types of ticks found in Indiana. The program, which featured Dr. Jennifer House, DVM and the director of the Zoonotic and Environmental Epidemiology Division of the Indiana State Department of Health, was sponsored by the Indiana State Department of Health.
“This program provided us with special training and new information on Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,” said Sullender.
According to information provided to the local health department, there are 15 types of ticks typically found in Indiana but of the 15, only four species are encountered by people and their pets. Dog ticks, the lone star tick, the blacklegged tick, or deer tick, and the brown dog tick are what most people come into contact with.
Ticks can transmit a number of diseases to both people and pets. The four most common types of diseases transmitted from ticks are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or RMSF, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and southern tick-associated rash illness. Ticks can also pass tularemia, babesiosis, and several other viral diseases but these are not nearly as common.
In humans, RMSF, an acute infectious disease caused by the bacteria in both the American dog tick and the lone star tick, usually begins about three to 10 days after the tick attaches. Symptoms include rashes on the wrist and ankles before spreading to the rest of the body. RMSF can be treated with antibiotics if caught in the early stages. According to the brochure “Ticks and Diseases in Indiana” now available at the health department, there are usually around six reported cases of RMSF reported each year in Indiana.
Sullender said that so far just one case of RMSF has been reported in the county and there have not been any reported cases of Lyme Disease so far this year.
“Both RMSF and Lyme disease have increased over the last few years and usually the veterinarians see that increase in the tick population before if reaches humans,” said Sullender.
Lyme disease, which got its name from the towns of Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut, where is was first discovered in 1975, is considered the number one vector-borne disease in the United States. The first cases of Lyme disease in Indiana were reported around 1983 but in recent years the number of cases reported in the state have increased. Lyme disease presents itself differently in each infected person but about 70 to 80 percent of people with Lyme disease develop a rash within one month of getting the bite. Those infected may also feel fatigue, feverish, or have swollen glands, headaches or stiffness or pain in the joints and muscles. When these symptoms are treated early with the correct antibiotics, Lyme disease may become disseminated. If left untreated, Lyme disease may cause heart problems as well as problems with the nervous system and joints.
Ehrlichiosis commonly has two occurring types in the Midwest. Human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME) typically presents itself with fever, headache, muscle ache, nausea, and vomiting. While the disease is serious, it is not fatal and most cases in HME have been reported in southern Indiana where the lone star tick is prominent. Human granulocytic ehrlichiosis or HGE has symptoms similar to that of HME except it is transmitted by the deer tick. Both types of the disease are easily treated with antibiotics.
Southern Tick- Associated Rash Illness or STARI is also associated with the bites from the lone star tick and cases are typically only reported in the southeastern and south-central states. The illness also presents as a rash similar to Lyme disease.
To avoid coming into contact with ticks, the department of health recommends staying out of tick infested areas during the peak months of April, May and June and applying tick repellents as well as wearing long sleeves and long pants. It is also noted that all ticks should be removed by grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible with tweezers. Ticks should be saved in a jar or vial with the date they were removed.
Dr. Andrea Schroeder of the Vincennes Veterinary Clinic located on Highway 67 just outside of Vincennes, said that in general all types of ticks have been more of a problem in animals.
“Deer ticks tend to be the ones that cause problems with Lyme disease in animals,” Schroeder said.
“We didn’t use to see much of Lyme disease here but because of the tick migration from the northern states, we’ve seen a lot more cases in animals. Essentially, the ticks transmit disease from other wildlife and then transmit the Lyme to people.”
Schroeder said that when dogs typically present with Lyme disease, the animal tends to have fever that comes and goes as well as inflamed joints, similar to arthritis symptoms.
“If the disease gets treated early, it can be controlled by antibiotics but it will stay in the system. You can never really get rid of it.”
She said the best way to prevent your animal from Lyme Disease is to use a flea and tick control product such as a flea and tick collar, dip, or topical liquid applied to the skin. A vaccine, while not a popular option, Schroeder said is available at some veterinarian clinics.
The vaccine works against the part of the tick that transmits disease and that the vaccine and is said to be 65 to 80 percent effective.
“I would probably recommend this more for hunting dogs and for people who have dogs that are always outside,” said Schroeder.
There is currently no vaccine to protect cats from Lyme Disease. “Ticks don’t really seem to be a problem in cats.”
For more information on ticks in humans, visit the Daviess County Health Department located at 303 E. Hefron St.
For additional information on protecting your dogs from ticks, contact your local veterinarian.