As tick season ramps up, experts offer tips on how to prevent tickborne illness

March 28, 2024

Public Health and Wellness shares early surveillance results of its Spot a Tick and Share Program 

Tick sightings and bites dramatically increase during the spring months and into summer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nationally there has been a sharp incline in the number of emergency department visits for tick bites over the past month. The uptick in cases comes as public health recognizes National Tick Bite Prevention Week. During this time, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) is reminding people to protect themselves from tickborne illnesses by preventing bites and asking residents to share ticks with LMPHW to enhance its surveillance program. 

Ticks are small parasites that feed on the blood of mammals, birds and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. They are commonly found in wooded, brushy and grassy areas. However, people can be exposed to a tick in their own yard. Exposure to ticks can happen all year round, but they tend to be more active during warmer months. They can spread diseases to both pets and people. Diseases they carry include Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease

Most common tickborne diseases found in Kentucky are: 

  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever 
  • Ehrlichiosis 

“While the majority of tick bites do not result in infections, prevention should be taken seriously because tickborne diseases can lead to some pretty significant health complications,” said Dr. Kris Bryant, associate medical director at LMPHW. “We want people to live active lifestyles and enjoy the great outdoors, but we want them to do so safely and be tick aware.” 

Here are the T-I-C-K rules of thumb: 

“You will often find ticks in folds of the body, like behind the ears, inside the belly button and in the hair,” said Matt Vanderpool, entomologist and LMPHW environmental health specialist. “After outdoor activities, check your body and any pets for ticks and shower or bathe as soon as possible. If you do find a tick, use a tweezer to grasp it close to the surface of your skin and pull straight upwards and then thoroughly clean the bite area.”

Spot a Tick and Share Program 

In 2022, LMPHW launched its Spot a Tick and Share Program. If people are bitten by a tick or discover one, they are asked to share it with the department so environmental health specialists can further identify what types of ticks are in the Metro area and what diseases they may be carrying. 
To date, more than 300 ticks have been speciated and tested for disease through the program. Of those samples, nearly 70 have been brought in by Louisville Metro residents and the rest collected by LMPHW. 

Early results show the most common ticks found in the Metro area are:

  • Lone Star tick – 85% of collected ticks
  • American Dog tick – 12% of collected ticks 

Since the start of the program, three ticks have tested positive for disease, one with ehrlichiosis and two with Rocky Mountain spotted fever. 

“It’s important to note that these findings don’t paint the total picture,” said Vanderpool. “We need more tick samples to get a better idea of what’s happening among our tick populations. Regardless of what these results show, please protect yourself and check for ticks anytime you spend time outdoors.” 

To submit a tick, follow these steps

1.    Place the tick in an airtight container, not a plastic bag. 
2.    Cover the tick in rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. 
3.    Label the container with your name and contact information. 
4.    Complete and attach this form that you can also find on louisvilleky.gov
5.    Drop off the sample at Public Health and Wellness headquarters at 400 E. Gray St. Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

For more information about ticks, prevention tips and proper removal, visit LMPHW’s webpage
 

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