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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

April 18, 2014


Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

DPHHS advises Montanans to be tick aware while enjoying the outdoors

As Montanans look to enjoy the great outdoors this spring and summer, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials urge outdoors enthusiasts to add one more item to their checklist: insect repellent.

“Insect repellent is the best defense against tick-borne illnesses for anyone spending time in wooded, brushy, or grassy parts of the state,” said DPHHS Director Richard Opper.

Each year, public health officials receive reports of several tick-borne illnesses, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia, Colorado Tick Fever and Tickborne Relapsing Fever. Other tick-borne illnesses reported, believed to be acquired out of state, include Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis. All of these diseases can cause severe illness.

The most common symptoms of tick-borne infections include fever and chills, aches and pains, rash, and fever of varying degrees. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose. Early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications.

“See your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience symptoms,” said Joel Merriman of the DPHHS Communicable Disease and Epidemiology Section.

Public health officials remind people to check themselves and family members for ticks after recreating outdoors. If a tick is found and is attached, follow these steps to safely remove the tick.

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

Do no use folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. These methods are not recommended and may cause the tick to burrow deeper into the skin.

Merriman also emphasizes the following tick prevention measures:

  • Wear long light-colored pants and clothing to spot ticks more easily.
  • Avoid potential tick habitats (e.g. wooded, brushy, or grassy areas) by walking in the center of trails.
  • Focus repellent use below the waistline since ticks usually climb up from the ground.
  • Use repellants containing DEET or Permethrin. After returning from outdoor activities, check your body carefully for ticks and promptly remove any that are found. These precautions are most important during the late spring, early summer, and fall, when ticks are active.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you suspect that you have a tick-borne disease.

Repellents containing up to 30 percent DEET can be used on the skin or clothing. Lower concentrations can be used but might need to be applied more frequently. Repellents containing Permethrin are only applied to clothing, and are highly effective even after treated clothing has been washed.

For more information about tick-borne illnesses, protection and detection efforts, visit the Department of Public Health and Human Services website at http://www.dphhs.mt.gov.

Page last updated 04/18/2014