DHHS reports rise in tick-related illnesses, including one death

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported a death related to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a disease carried by ticks.

The man was in his 60’s and lived in the West Central District Health Department (WCDHD) area, which includes Arthur, Hooker, Lincoln, Logan, McPherson, and Thomas counties. DHHS has also seen an increase in reports of people with Ehrlichiosis, another tick-related illness. On average, the DHHS receives four reports of Ehrlichiosis in a year, nine reports have already been received to date.

“Ticks can be efficient carriers of disease and these tick-related illnesses can be serious and sadly, sometimes fatal,” said Dr. Tom Safranek, state epidemiologist for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). “In a year when many of us are spending more time outdoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nebraskans need to practice the basics of tick prevention to reduce the risk of tick bites.”

“Although tick-related diseases are not seen frequently in our jurisdiction, ticks that can transmit diseases are still found here. It’s important for people to take simple steps to protect themselves and their families. It only takes one bite from an infected tick to make a person ill,” said Shannon Vanderheiden, Executive Director of WCDHD.

Protect yourself against tick bites with these simple steps:

  • Use a repellent with at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin or IR3535, or permethrin-treated clothing.
  • When outdoors, avoid contact with tall grasses and shrubs and keep commonly-used areas of the yard free of tall grasses and shrubs, as well as deer and rodents, to help limit tick exposure.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks, and closed-toed shoes outside.
  • Do a tick check after being outdoors, including coats, gear, and pets, and remove any attached ticks promptly without squeezing.
  • Shower within two hours of coming indoors.

A relative to mites and spiders, ticks are generally found near the ground and in brushy or wooded areas where they climb tall grasses or shrubs and transfer to a host brushing against them. They attach and feed on blood. Engorged ticks are more likely to transmit pathogens that can cause diseases.

Those concerned about possible infection from a tick bite should contact a healthcare provider. Suspected infections should be reported to a local health department or DHHS.

If you find an attached tick:

  • Remove the attached tick as soon as you notice it by grasping with fine-tipped tweezers, as close to the skin as possible, and pulling it straight out. Early removal can minimize and often eliminate the chance of infection.
  • Watch for signs of infection, and illness such as rash or fever in the days and weeks following a bite, and see a health care provider if these develop.

Additional information on tick-related diseases is available here – www.cdc.gov/ticks.

Some pets are also susceptible to tick-related disease. Learn more about tick bite prevention for your pets – www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_pets.html.

Categories: Health, Nebraska News