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Spring Brings Risk Of Tick-Borne Illness

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Friday, April 26, 2013
Dr. Lon Kightlinger, Department of Health (605) 773-3737 
Dr. Michael Hildreth, South Dakota State University, (605) 668-4562
Dr. Buyung Hadi, South Dakota State University, (605) 688-6784


Spring Brings Risk Of Tick-Borne Illness


PIERRE, S.D. – Using tick repellent and regularly checking for ticks are the keys to preventing tularemia, Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, says a South Dakota health official. 


“Spring means more time outdoors and more risk for tick-borne diseases,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “Every year in South Dakota we see cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease – all tick-borne illnesses.”


In 2012 the department investigated four cases of Lyme disease, five of tularemia and one ehrlichiosis. All four cases of Lyme disease had out-of state tick exposure. The Ioxdes deer tick that carries Lyme disease prefers heavily forested areas In Wisconsin and Minnesota, so most areas of South Dakota are not suitable habitat for the species. 


A 2011 tick survey conducted by Dr. Michael Hildreth, a professor in the departments of Biology and Microbiology and Veterinary and Biomedical Science at SDSU did not find deer ticks in the locations tested. However, a deer tick was sent to Dr. Buyung Hadi, SDSU Extension Urban Entomologist last fall from Roberts County in northeastern South Dakota. To determine whether deer ticks are becoming established in the state, individuals finding ticks are encouraged to send specimens for identification to Dr. Hadi at:

Dr. Buyung Hadi, Pesticide Education and Urban Entomology Coordinator
SAG 224 Box 2207A
South Dakota State University
Brookings, SD 57007
Phone: (605) 688-6784; Cell: (605) 690-4289


Tick samples should be sent within a small bottle sealed with tape. DO NOT crush the sample or put the tick on tape. Make sure that your name, phone number and date of submission are attached to the bottle. If sending the sample via post, pack the vial in a padded envelope or cardboard containers. Ticks will be identified but not tested for Lyme disease.


The 2011 tick survey did find plentiful numbers of Dermacentor dog ticks. While the dog tick doesn’t carry Lyme disease, it does transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tularemia and ehrlichiosis, so people should protect themselves from this tick species


Tick bites are usually painless and appear as a small red bump with a bright red halo. To remove an attached tick, use tweezers or a tissue and pull slowly and steadily, being careful not crush it. Then apply antiseptic to the site to prevent infection. If you use bare hands to remove a tick, wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap. Avoid touching your eyes before washing.  


Tick-borne illness symptoms include sudden onset of a moderate-to-high fever, stiff neck, deep muscle pain, arthritis, fatigue, severe headache, chills, a rash on the arms and legs or around the site of the bite, and swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the neck. If you develop any of these symptoms after a tick bite, see your doctor. With Rocky Mountain spotted fever the illness does not start immediately after the tick bite, but typically 5 to 10 days after the tick attachment.  


When outdoors, repel ticks by tucking your pants into your socks and spraying clothes and any exposed skin with a tick repellent. Other precautions include:

  • Check frequently for ticks when outside, especially the scalp and folds of skin. Ticks need to be attached for several hours to spread infection so you can significantly cut your risk by checking for and removing ticks right away.
  • Check small children thoroughly and often for ticks when they've been outside or have had contact with pets or livestock that may have ticks.
  • Ask your veterinarian about appropriate insecticides and collars to protect pets from ticks and limit the number they carry into the home. For added protection, apply insecticides and tick repellents to your pet's bedding.
  • Check your animals frequently for ticks. To remove ticks from animals, apply constant traction with forceps or tweezers. If you must use your fingers, wear disposable gloves then wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.  


Fact sheets on specific tick-borne diseases can be found on the Department of Health web site at http://doh.sd.gov/DiseaseFacts/

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*(BOO’-yoong HAW-dee)