MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Disease-carrying ticks are making people sick throughout Tennessee. From the beginning of the year through the middle of May, at least 74 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever were reported across the state. That’s three times the rate at which the disease was found last year. Warm weather arriving earlier in 2012 could be part to blame.
The Mid-South isn’t a stranger to tick-born illnesses. From 2006 through 2012, there were 290 reported cases of tick-born illnesses in Shelby County. However, only 16 cases were confirmed. Doctors use symptoms, lab tests, and known exposure to determine if a case is confirmed to be Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Last year, Shelby County had one confirmed case, three probable cases, and four suspected cases of the disease. So far this year, there have been no reports of the disease. Health experts say that could change after summer vacations are over.
Dr. Helen Morrow with the Memphis and Shelby Count Health Department said, “We’ve had people travel to all contiguous states and come back with Rocky Mountain spotted fever. It would go down as a case in Shelby County whether they acquired the tick in Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, or Alabama.”
Experts recommend wearing long pants and long sleeves if you plan to be outside in tall grass or brushy areas. You should also check all over your body, especially around the hair line, for where ticks may be hiding.
Symptoms of tick-born illnesses usually appear in the form of fever, headache, muscle aches, and a rash. However, most cases do not present a classic rash and should not be mistaken for having the flu. Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease can be fatal if not properly treated. However, if caught early enough, it can be treated with antibiotics.