Tiny ticks, big trouble

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Planning that camping trip into the woods or along rivers? Be sure tick bite prevention is part of your plan.

Ticks carry the bacteria responsible for some 15 different illnesses, some of which are downright deadly.

Most of the illnesses can be treated with antibiotics with few lingering side effects if caught early enough, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Left untreated, a tiny tick bite can ruin your life and kill you.

The type of tickborne illnesses vary by geography and tick species. Luckily, dry New Mexico has few cases of the worst illnesses caused by tick bites, but they do occur. And if you're going to take road trips to forests and rivers in other states, be aware of tick warnings in summer and fall.

In the West, one virulent illness is Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Symptoms of spotted fever are a high temperature, sometimes a rash, headache, nausea, stomach and muscle pain. But many people will show few or no signs until the illness has progressed.

Most of the cases occur in North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. Arizona also reported 140 cases between 2003 and 2010.

"Left untreated," warns the CDC "the bacteria can cause damage to blood vessels throughout the body leading to organ and tissue damage. RMSF can be fatal, even in previously healthy people, if not treated correctly, death can often occur within eight days of symptoms starting."

The American dog tick is the primary carrier of R. rickettsii, the bacteria behind Rocky Mountain spotted fever misery. Many of the spotted fever infections have occurred in communities with a lot of free-roaming dogs that are easy pickings for ticks.

Another nasty tickborne illness is Lyme disease, a dibilatating infection with similar symptoms as spotted fever. It is often, but not always, marked by a round skin rash called erythema migrans. Left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to joints, heart and nervous system.

Taos County had only four confirmed cases of Lyme disease between 2000 and 2015, according to the CDC. Statewide, only 46 cases have been confirmed. Most of the cases are in the Northeastern states such as Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

What's the best way to avoid tick bites?

Treat dogs with tick repellant.

Avoid walking through heavily wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, unless wearing boots, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts all treated with a 0.5 percent solution of permethrin.

Walk in the center of trails.

Spray exposed skin with a repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. Avoid getting the spray in eyes or mouth

Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off crawling ticks.

Check every part of your body and face, and help your family check theirs, upon return from tick-infested areas. Check for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, in hair, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, and around the waist.

Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets.

Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.

www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html

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