This year’s cool, wet spring likely made life comfortable for ticks across the state and increased the chances of encountering one of the disease-carrying insects in Southwest Colorado.
Already the state health department has experienced an increase in calls from residents asking for health advice, said Dr. Jennifer House, the state’s public health veterinarian.
The state does not track the number of calls it receives, but anecdotally, many reports have come in, she said. Last year, conditions were not ripe for the insect that can’t bare hot and dry conditions.
Across the state, ticks can carry four diseases of concern: tick-borne relapsing fever; Colorado tick fever, a viral infection; tularemia, a lingering infection; and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a disease that can cause sever life-threatening complications in some cases, she said. A toxin in tick saliva is believed to cause paralysis as well in rare cases, she said.
One of the keys to protecting yourself, is being aware of the possible presence of ticks, she said.
“The faster that you remove (ticks) from your body, the less likely you are to be exposed to any pathogens,” she said.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever, one of the most concerning conditions, is rare across the state, she said. In 2018, seven cases of the disease were reported in Colorado, House said.
Hikers and other recreationalists can avoid coming into contact with ticks by wearing clothes treated with tick repellent and staying away from long tall grasses, brush and other foliage, she said.
Light-colored clothing can also help with tick detection, she said.
Ticks will crawl into the dark crevasses of the human body, so it can help to shower after spending time outside to wash them off, she said. Checking your body with a mirror is also advisable, she said.
Ticks can be removed by using tweezers and pulling them straight off your body, she said. After removing a tick, mark the date on the calender, she said. Tracking the appearance of the tick can determine if a fever or rash that develops over the next 30 days is related, she said.
Dogs can also be susceptible to tick-borne diseases. A loss of appetite and low energy can be symptoms of a tick-related disease, she said.
House advises pet-owners ask their veterinarians for recommendations about the best tick-repellent product for their dog, she said.