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Tick Prevention and Removal Tips From Public Health

The spring season brings on many pleasant things as plants bloom, the weather warms and outdoor events begin. Though spring also means the return of many bugs, including ticks which increases the risk for exposure to Lyme and other diseases.

Marion County Public Health nurse Judi Van Hulzen says prevention is the key to protection. She says if you use preventative measures while outdoors, you can greatly reduce the risk of getting these infections. To help prevent tick bites residents are encouraged to use an approved insect repellant including DEET but wash it off after coming indoors, wear light colored clothing to easily spot ticks, conduct tick checks daily after spending a lot of time outdoors and remain calm if you do find one.

To properly remove a tick, use a fine-tipped tweezers and protect your fingers with a tissue, paper towel or gloves to avoid contact with your skin, grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady even pressure. Once the tick is removed thoroughly disinfect the bite and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.

From the Marion County Public Health Department:

Tick Surveillance
The Lyme Disease Surveillance Program regularly posts maps to show 1) where Iowan’s typically encounter the three types of ticks that are most common in the state and 2) where Lyme bacteria infected ticks have been collected. Maps from recent years can be found through the menu bar at left. Information from 2010 can be found through this LINK.
Found a tick?
For many years, the Medical Entomology Lab at Iowa State University has been tracking the blacklegged (a.k.a. deer) tick, Ixodes scapularis, and the Lyme Disease-causing bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, in the state of Iowa. You can help in this effort! If you have been enjoying the outdoors and find a tick on yourself, a friend, family member, or pet, we’ll gladly take the tick and identify it for you. When you find a tick of any sort, wrap it in tissue, add a blade of grass, and seal it in a zip-top plastic bag. Mail or bring this to:
Department of Entomology
Lyme Disease Project
436 Science Hall II
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-3222
Fill out this FORM, or provide your name and information about your tick encounter including, for example: where you found the tick (geographic location, on yourself or a pet), and whether or not it was attached on a slip of paper. In return, we’ll send you a postcard telling you what species of tick you found.
This information also is available through the attached “WANTED” poster. Please feel free to print and post this information so that others also can contribute to this study.
Any blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) submitted are tested for the presence of the Lyme disease bacterium, Borellia burgdorferi. The results from these tests help us to determine in what regions of the state there are populations of these ticks, and where those populations also might be transmitting the bacterium. These tests are NOT diagnostic for the patient from which the tick was removed.
Concerned about Lyme Disease?
If you suspect that you were exposed to a blacklegged tick, and are concerned about Lyme Disease, please see the Centers for Disease Control website for more information, and contact your health care provider.