A mild Winter means tick season has returned to Oklahoma

Thursday, March 10th 2005, 10:21 am
By: News On 6

Our mild winter weather could increase the chances of getting a potentially serious illness, carried by ticks. Doctors may have confirmed a case of Lyme disease in Sequoyah County, which would be the state's first in 5 years.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin has more on how to keep protect yourself.

It’s a tiny pest than can pack a punch, flu-like symptoms that if untreated, could cause lifelong health problems and even death. While Lyme disease is actually rare in Green Country, if you include similar illnesses like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and ehrlichiosis, Oklahoma is one of the top states in the nation for tick-borne illness.

Janice Sheehan with the Tulsa County Health Department: "People need to be aware when they've been out hunting then they come back and within say 5 days to two weeks they come down with some significant symptoms."

Signs include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and a skin rash. The problem is everyone doesn't get the rash. That's why it's important to think back on where you've been when an illness pops up, tall grass and wooded areas can be filled with critters you don't want to carry home. To avoid bites, tuck pant legs into socks and your shirt into your pants. Wear light colored clothing and check it often. Don't forget the insect repellent and give yourself and the kids a close exam at the end of the day.

If you do turn up a tick proper removal is important, grab the tick with tweezers as close as possible to the skin and pull straight out with gentle, steady pressure. Health officials say don't squeeze, mash or try to kill it. "Because it can release the toxins and if you haven't been infected you can become infected that way."

You may be surprised to find the same infection symptoms in another member of your family. Veterinarian Dr Greg Strathe: "We will probably treat a dozen or so per summer with tick related diseases. They'll run fever, get depressed sometimes anorexia, joint problems, joint pain, so yeah it's a very serious problem in Oklahoma."

Officials are still waiting for a blood test to confirm the Lyme disease diagnosis in Sallisaw, but because early treatment is so crucial. Doctors are treating the patient with antibiotics and expect a full recovery.