By Raquel Williams
Carter County Public Health Nurse 

Q's Health News

Tick-borne illnesses


COVID-19 is high on everyone’s radar, and there continues to be zero cases in Carter County. However, we have to remember there are other diseases out there which we must be aware of and protect ourselves, like tick-borne diseases. Because Spring is here, and so are ticks! I have already found five on my puppy...

There are many species of ticks in Montana that are capable of transmitting a variety of viral, bacterial, and parasitic illnesses to humans and other mammals, like pet dogs. However, you can reduce your risk of being infected with a tick-borne disease by using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing when outdoors, especially in grassy, bushy, or wooded areas. After being outdoors, be sure to check clothing, pets, and gear for ticks and shower within two hours as this may help wash away ticks that are not attached. Lastly, be sure to perform a full-body check of yourself and your family to look for ticks that may be attached.

When you find a tick attached, remove it as soon as possible to reduce the likelihood of contracting an illness. To properly remove an attached tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Then pull upward with steady, even pressure. If tick mouth-parts break off and remain in the skin, try to remove those with the tweezers. If you are unable to remove the tick mouth-parts, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, iodine, or soap and water. Avoid folklore remedies such as applying nail polish or petroleum jelly over the tick, or using heat to detach from the skin. These methods may make the tick burrow even deeper into the skin.

Common symptoms of tick-borne infections include fever, rash, muscle aches and pains, body aches, fatigue, headaches, and fever & chills. Tick-borne illnesses can be challenging to diagnose because symptoms can be vague and similar to other illnesses. Timely and proper removal of attached ticks is the best way to reduce the likelihood of a tick transmitting an illness. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms and have been bitten by a tick recently.

The Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick are the two most common tick species in Montana to cause illness. These tick species can cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia, and Colorado tick fever, but these diseases are rare. The most common tick-borne illness reported in Montana is Lyme disease, about 11 cases per year. However, all instances of Lyme disease reported in Montana are acquired when residents are out of state.

Whether you are walking in the woods at Medicine Rocks or in Minnesota, be sure to use an insect repellent that has been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, like something with DEET in it, wear protective clothing, and check yourself for ticks when you return home. To learn more about ticks and tick-borne illnesses, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:

Thanks for joining me! If you have questions or comments, you can reach me at the Carter County Public Health Department by calling 406-775-6332 or email me at [email protected]


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