Prevent Tick-Borne Illness

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Monday, April 10, 2017
CONTACT:  Lon Kightlinger, (605) 773-3737  

                                                                           Prevent Tick-Borne Illness

PIERRE, S.D. – Head outdoors and enjoy the spring weather but keep an eye out for ticks to prevent tularemia and other tick-borne diseases, says a state health official.

“We see cases of tick-borne illness every year in South Dakota,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “You can protect yourself when you’re outside by checking often and removing any ticks you find right away. It also helps to tuck your pant legs into your socks and spray your clothes and any exposed skin with repellent.”

In 2016 the department investigated six cases of Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis, 14 of tularemia and 11 of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is carried by the Ioxdes deer tick, which prefers heavily forested areas. The tick has been found in some eastern counties but most areas of the state are not suitable habitat. South Dakota Lyme disease cases have typically had deer tick bites out of state.

A tick bite is a small, painless red bump with a bright red halo. If a tick is attached, remove it with tweezers or tissue, pulling slowly and steadily, being careful not to crush it. Then apply antiseptic to prevent infection. If you use bare hands wash thoroughly with warm, soapy water and avoid touching your eyes before washing.

Symptoms of tick-borne illness 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.

Other precautions include:

  • Check small children thoroughly for ticks when they've been outside or had contact with pets or livestock that may have ticks.
  • Use insecticides and collars to protect pets from ticks and limit the number they carry into the home. Apply insecticides and tick repellents to pet bedding.
  • Check your animals frequently for ticks. Remove ticks from animals using forceps or tweezers to apply constant traction. 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’s website,

Preventing and controlling infectious disease is one objective of the Department of Health’s 2015-2020 strategic plan.

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PHOTO CAPTION: The photo is the common dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), which is widespread in South Dakota. It can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and ehrlichiosis.