The Iowa Department of Public Health has completed 6 weeks of a surveillance project to determine the number and variety of ticks in the state. Thus far, 68% are American dog ticks, 25% deer ticks, and the remainders are identified as Lone Star ticks. All three of these species are known to spread illnesses

Tick borne illnesses in Iowa include:

  • Lyme disease: spread by the bite of the deer tick, this illness causes fever, headache, fatigue, joint pain, and a bulls-eye rash. Most cases can be treated with antibiotics, but some people develop chronic health problems after this infection. In 2018, there were 284 confirmed cases in Iowa. As of August 2, 2019, there were 152 Iowa cases.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Spread by the American dog tick . Symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle aches. A rash may develop. This illness can be quite severe, even causing death. This illness can be treated with antibiotics. Iowa had 22 cases in 2018, as of August 2, 2019; 6 cases.
  • Anaplasmosis/Ehrlichiosis: these diseases are spread by the Lone Star tick and the deer tick. They are caused by up to four different bacteria transmitted by the ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, and fatigue. 2018 had 27 cases of one of these diseases, thus far in 2019; 17.
  • Babesiosis: Again, the deer tick is the culprit in the transmission of this disease. Many people infected with this do not initially have symptoms, but may later develop serious anemias. No confirmed cases in Iowa as of August, 2019.

Use a fine tweezers to grasp the tick as close to skin surface as possible. Do not twist, or jerk. Exert even, steady upward pressure, this will eliminate parts of the tick’s mouth being left in the skin.

After removing the tick, cleanse the area with antibacterial soap, and an anti-bacterial such as alcohol, or iodine containing scrub.

If you develop a rash or fever with in several weeks of removing a tick, see your health care provider. Inform them of the exposure to a tick bite, and where you acquired the tick.

Ticks are mainly found near the ground in bushy or wooded areas. They are unable to jump, but are able to climb tall grass or shrubs. They then lie in wait for a host to brush against them, and crawl onto the host to seek some skin for attachment.

  • Wear insect repellent containing DEET.
  • Wear long pants, sleeves, and a cap when in wooded areas.
  • Shower soon after coming indoors, and check for ticks after activities in tick prone areas.
  • Treat dogs for ticks.

Cindy Peterson, ARNP