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Some may have taken advantage of this week's pleasant weather by venturing out for a hike or a night of camping. But one tiny pest can put adventurers at risk for disease. KSMU's Benjamin Fry reports.
They're no bigger than a pencil eraser, and have been putting more Missourians under the weather.
State health officials say tick-borne illnesses are on the rise compared to the past five years.
While the mention of tick-related illness may conjure up thoughts of Lyme disease, the potentially fatal illness is not prevalent in southwest Missouri.
Kendra Williams is the Administrator of Community Health and Epidemiology with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.
"We don't see any laboratory confirmed cases of Lyme disease very often."
Williams says Lyme disease is more prevalent in the eastern US. In the Ozarks, the two common tick-borne illnesses to look out for are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichia.
Typically, neither one of them is fatal.
"A normal healthy adult with a robust immune system should be able to recover from a tick-borne disease without any problems whatsoever."
However, those with a compromised immune system as well as children and the elderly may need help recovering.
It might be difficult to tell the diseases apart as both may include symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and sometimes a rash.
Even if someone bitten by a tick feels fine, Williams says they're not out of the woods just yet.
"The symptoms can develop anywhere from say three to thirty days following a tick bite."
Williams says the longer a person waits to remove a tick, the more risk they have of getting ill.
As for avoiding catching a disease when heading into the weeds, Williams says clothing makes a big difference.
"Try to wear light-colored clothing so they can easily see ticks when they are crawling on them. If they are going to be in tall grass, tuck their pants into their socks so that ticks can't crawl up underneath their pant legs."
Many types of mosquito repellant work against ticks, including DEET.
Williams says to remove an embedded tick, grasp it as close to the skin as possible, pull it straight out, and avoid twisting which could lead to the head remaining in the skin.
Although tick-borne illnesses are on the rise state-wide, health officials say the 22 tick-related illnesses reported in Greene-County so far this year is equal to the total amount last year.
Officials believe the tick population could be up this year because of the mild winter, wet spring, and moderate summer.
For KSMU news, I'm Benjamin Fry.