Jun 06, 2011

SPOKANE, Wash. – June 6, 2011 – With warm weather finally on its way to eastern Washington, residents should also expect the number of ticks to rise. Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) urges people to take simple precautions to avoid being bitten this spring, summer and early fall. 

"There are simple precautions that people can take to reduce their risk of tick-borne disease," said David Swink, director of the SRHD Environmental Public Health division. "The best protection is to use clothing to create a barrier when outdoors and to carefully examine people, pets and the indoor environment for ticks." 

Two types of disease-carrying ticks are present in the Spokane area. “Soft” ticks, typically found locally in cabins and wooded areas, are responsible for a very few (on average two) cases of relapsing fever each year. Soft ticks typically feed at night and drop off their host, which means people usually do not know they have been bitten.

Hard ticks, sometimes called wood or dog ticks, are more frequently encountered in local outdoor settings. Hard ticks bite and burrow under the skin of humans and animals and infrequently cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever or tick paralysis. Each year, zero to three cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever are identified in Washington. Five cases of tick paralysis have been reported in approximately the last 20 years.

If you find a tick attached to skin, promptly remove it. Grasp the tick using fine-tipped tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands. If you begin to experience a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your health care provider.
When working, camping, or walking in a tick habitat—wooded, brushy or grassy places—a  few simple precautions can reduce your chance of being bitten:

  • 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 allows dark ticks to be seen more easily. The tight weave makes it harder for the tick to attach itself.
  • Use tick repellent and carefully follow instructions on the label.
  • 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.

Many cases of tick-related illness involve people who have stayed at a cabin or vacation home. When visiting a cabin, or for people who live in wooded areas, follow these precautions to avoid tick bites:

  • Inspect your home/cabin on a regular basis for signs of rodent and other animal activity—animals are the normal source of blood for soft ticks.
  • Eliminate rodent nesting areas from your home/cabin.
  • Use food and waste-handling practices that eliminate food sources for rodents.
  • Rodent-proof your cabin as follows: 
    • Seal all holes in foundation and walls.
    • Place heavy-gauge metal screens on windows, vents and other openings to prevent entry of rodents.
    • Place a 24” perimeter of 1-inch gravel around the cabin. This can help prevent the movement of rodents and ticks into the cabin.

For more information, check out SRHD’s Tick Tips flyer. Information can also be found at SRHD’s website offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community.