Missouri is home to at least six different human tick-borne diseases, according to the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services. It’s why officials are urging individuals to take extra precautions while outdoors this summer season.
Springfield Conservation Nature Center Assistant Manager Rudy Martinez says, “in rural areas where you are walking through an open field, or a wooded area, more of your natural ecosystems, you are going to be more prone to ticks or chiggers. Those are the areas where I would take those extra precautions.”
Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control traveled to northwest Missouri in 2013 to collect tick samples. They found 1 in 500 carried the Heartland Virus, which causes low white blood cell counts, fever, chills, body aches, nausea and diarrhea. The same culprits, Lone Star ticks, are also causing life threatening reactions to red meat consumption.
Missouri State University Biology Professor Dr. Chris Barnhart says, “people should avoid exposure to ticks, and if you’ve been in a situation where you’ve gotten ticks on you, you have to get them off as quickly as possible. The longer that they stay attached, the greater the chances of disease transmission if they do happen to be carrying something.”
The CDC offers simple measures to protect yourself this summer: Be aware of peak exposure times and places such as wooded areas or grassy plains, wear appropriate clothing, use repellents and always check for ticks after being outdoors.