Ticks Carrying Bacteria that Cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Found in Two Louisville ZIP Codes
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – (September 17, 2021) The Department of Public Health and Wellness has found ticks infected with Rickettsia bacteria, the causal agent for Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSP), in two Louisville ZIP code areas: 40229 and 40223.
Rickettsia ricketsii is a bacterial disease spread through the bite of an infected tick. Most people who get sick with RMSF will have a fever, headache, and rash. RMSF can be deadly if not treated early with the right antibiotic.
The bacteria were found in local Lone Star ticks (Amblyomma americanum), which have only recently been discovered to carry the bacteria. The adult female is distinguished by a white dot or “lone star” on her back. The nymph and adult females most frequently bite humans.
The greatest risk of being bitten exists in early spring through late fall.
The Department of Public Health and Wellness advises people to take the following precautions:
Avoid Tick Bites
Before you go outdoors:
- Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their yard or neighborhood.
- Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Always follow product instructions. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
- Avoid contact with ticks that can be found in wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Instead, walk in the center of trails.
After you come indoors:
Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium-temperature water will not kill ticks.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.
Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full-body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around the hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
No human cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever have been reported in Louisville so far this year. There was one confirmed case in 2020 and one in 2018.