Serious tick-borne illnesses are relatively rare in Colorado compared to other parts of the United States, according to the El Paso County Department of Public Health. Tick-related illness have been thrust into the spotlight recently following the death of an Indiana toddler from Rocky Mountain spotted fever, believed to have been contracted from a tick bite, and the viral video of an Oregon girl who sustained temporary partial paralysis while a tick was attached to her scalp. “Yes, the risk is in Colorado, but most people will not get severely or critically ill,” said Dr. Chris Nevin-Woods, Medical Director for the El Paso County Department of Public Health.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there are three types of ticks that make their home in Colorado: the American dog tick, which can transmit Tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, the Rocky Mountain wood tick, which can transmit tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Colorado tick fever, and the Brown dog tick, which can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Despite the presence of ticks capable of transmitting Rocky Mountain spotted fever, fewer than two cases per one million people are reported annually in Colorado. “The good news in Colorado, even though the name has ‘Rocky Mountain’ in it, it is unusual to have Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Colorado,” Nevin-Woods said. No ticks capable of transmitting Lyme Disease are known to inhabit Colorado. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has online maps indicating geographic distribution of ticks that bite humans.
The CDC offers the following tips for tick prevention:
Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
Repel Ticks on Skin and Clothing
- Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours.
- Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth.
- Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an online tool to help you select the repellent that is best for you and your family.
Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
- Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.
- If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed.
- If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks effectively. If the clothes cannot be washed in hot water, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes. The clothes should be warm and completely dry.
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