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Local doctor gives tips for avoiding tick-borne illnesses this summer

Dr. Daniel Joyce said people should avoid high-grass areas and inspect themselves and pets...
Dr. Daniel Joyce said people should avoid high-grass areas and inspect themselves and pets frequently for ticks during the summer. There hasn't been a case of Lyme disease in Oklahoma in three years, but according to Joyce, we do see Rocky Mountain spotted fever and STARI or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness.(KSWO)
Published: May. 2, 2021 at 8:53 AM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - As it warms up and you’re spending more time outside, you want to make sure you’re avoiding ticks and watching for signs of the illnesses they spread.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, but there hasn’t been a confirmed case in Oklahoma in three years, according to Dr. Daniel Joyce with Lawton Community Health Center Midtown.

However, there are some tick-borne illnesses you should watch for on your hikes in the Wichita’s.

“Tick season starts usually in April and goes through to probably September,” he said. “A lot of people believe ticks jump. They actually technically don’t jump. They just brush up against your foot when you’re walking the grass or high grass and then it climbs up your skin.”

Lyme disease is most commonly found in the northeastern part of the United States.

In southwest Oklahoma, Joyce said we should worry more about STARI, or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

“Knowing that you had a tick is important to identify and tell the doctor,” he said, “‘Hey, I got bit 10 days ago. I have a rash. I’m having a fever.’ Those are the first initial findings of it.”

Pet owners should be cautious and check pets often for ticks, especially if they seem to be scratching themselves frequently.

Ticks can easily go from a dog to a human.

“Good veterinary hygiene, personal hygiene if you’re worried about it,” he said. “Then just inspect your folds. Inspect your belly button, inspect your arm pit, inspect different areas that they can hide. The sooner you can get the tick off, the better.”

Joyce said you shouldn’t try to remove a tick with nail polish or oil, but you can use large tweezers.

Tick-borne illnesses can be treated with antibiotics and the tick itself can also be tested.

“If you do get some weird rashes or say you find a tick on yourself, if someone is concerned about ‘oh my God, I got Lyme disease,’ there are a couple programs that you actually can send your tick in for identification if you’re really concerned,” he said.

Joyce said if you think you may have a tick-borne illness, you should contact your doctor for treatment.

If you have a tick you want to send in for testing, you can visit testmytick.com.

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