An epidemiologist with the Spokane Regional Health District confirms the first case this year of Tick Borne Relapsing Fever in a Spokane woman in her 50s. 

Two types of disease-carrying ticks are present in the Spokane area.

Soft ticks, which can transmit Relapsing Fever are most often found in cabins and wooded areas. They typically feed at night and drop off their host, so people usually don't know they've been bitten.

Relapsing Fever is the most common tick-borne disease in our area.  Symptoms can include sudden onset of high fever, shaking chills, headache, muscle and joint aches and nausea, and can last from 2-7 days.  Symptoms usually come back within several days to weeks, and may recur up to six times.  Medical treatment is encouraged, as some people become critically ill with Tick Borne Relapsing Fever.

Hard ticks, sometimes called wood or dog ticks, are more frequently encountered in outdoor settings such as the woods, tall grass, bushes and brushy areas. Hard ticks bite and burrow under the skin of humans and animals, potentially transmitting Tick Paralysis or less frequently, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

When working, camping, or walking in wooded, brushy, or grassy places where ticks can live... Things you can do:

  • Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck your pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants. This helps keep ticks on the outside of your clothing where they can be more easily spotted and removed.
  • Wear light colored, tightly woven clothing which allow dark ticks to be seen more easily. The tight weave makes it harder for the tick to attach itself.
  • Use tick repellent when necessary, and carefully follow instructions on the label. Products containing DEET or permethrin are very effective in repelling ticks. Take extra care when using on children.
  • Check yourself, your children and pets thoroughly for ticks. Carefully inspect areas around the head, neck and ears. Look for what may appear like a new freckle or speck of dirt.

What to do if you are bitten:

  • If you find a tick attached to your skin, promptly remove it. Grasp the tick using tweezers as close to the skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull the tick straight out. Do not twist or jerk. If tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of tissue. Wash your hands and apply antiseptic to the bite.
  • Occasionally, mouthparts of the tick stay attached to your skin. The mouthparts will not cause disease. If this happens, consult with your physician about their removal. 
  • Don't use old remedies such as a matches or Vaseline to remove the tick- this can actually increase the likelihood of disease transmission.
  • Monitor the bite and be alert for early symptoms of tick-borne disease particularly "flu-like" symptoms or rash over the next month or so. If you develop symptoms, contact your physician. 

More information: Tick Borne Relapsing Fever (pdf)