Ticks that can cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever found in Louisville area

People should avoid high-grass areas and inspect themselves and pets frequently for ticks...
People should avoid high-grass areas and inspect themselves and pets frequently for ticks during the summer.(KSWO)
Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 2:43 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Public health officials say ticks carrying bacteria that cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever have been found in two Louisville zip codes.

The ticks, which were found in the 40229 and 40223 zip codes, were infected with Rickettsia bacteria, the causal agent for Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Health officials say Rickettsia ricketsii is a bacterial disease that is spread through the bite of an infected tick. Most people who get sick with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever will have a fever, headache, and rash. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be deadly if not treated early with the right antibiotic.

The bacteria were found in local Lone Star ticks, 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.

Louisville Metro Health says the greatest risk of being bitten exists in early spring through late fall. They said you should 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

There have been no Rocky Mountain Spotted fever cases reported in Louisville in 2021. There were single cases confirmed in 2018 and 2020.

Information contained in this story was provided by the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.

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