On April 24, 2024

Take steps to prevent tick bites, diseases they spread   

Rate of illnesses from tick bites continues to rise in Vermont 

As springlike temperatures set in and people enjoy more time outside, it’s time to start checking for ticks and taking the simple steps to prevent tick bite illnesses. Ticks can be found throughout Vermont whenever temperatures are above freezing, with populations peaking during spring and fall.

Tick-borne diseases in Vermont are spread by the bite of infected black-legged ticks. Since they are active anytime temperatures are above freezing, health officials say people in Vermont can expect to encounter ticks during more times of the year. 

Courtesy Vermont Department of Health

Rates of tick bite illnesses in the state have continued to rise over time, with Lyme disease the most common. Cases of anaplasmosis and babesiosis have increased sharply over the last 10 years, and in 2016, the first case in Vermont of hard tick relapsing fever was reported.

Also of concern is Powassan virus disease, a rare but serious illness spread by ticks that is on the rise in the northeast region of the U.S. Since 1999, there have been two confirmed cases of Powassan virus disease in Vermont residents — Windsor County in 2022 and Orange County in 2023. Most people infected do not get sick. But for those who do, the disease can be severe, including confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, and seizures.

“We all love spending time outdoors in Vermont, whether in the garden, in the woods, or on the sports field,” said Dr. Natalie Kwit, the state’s public health veterinarian. “But ticks can be found throughout Vermont, so everyone should know how to prevent tick bites, and recognize symptoms of tick bite illnesses so you can call your health care provider as early as possible,” Dr. Kwit said. 

Courtesy Tick Encounter Resource Center
Groth stages of Blacklegged Ticks or Deer Ticks are important to recognize to keep yourself and family safe, healthy.

Take these steps to prevent tick bites: 

  • Avoid where ticks live, such as wooded,  brushy areas. 
  • Wear EPA-registered insect repellent, and protective clothing like pants and long-sleeved shirts. You can treat outdoor clothing, shoes and gear with 0.5% permethrin.  
  • Check your body, children, pets, clothing and gear for ticks soon after returning inside.  
  • Take a shower soon after being outdoors to wash away unattached ticks.  
  • Put clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks carried inside.  
  • Talk with your veterinarian about tick-prevention products for pets. 

Symptoms of a tick bite illness may include fever, chills, rash, headache, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, or a rash. Call your doctor if you experience symptoms three to 30 days after a tick bite or spending time in a tick habitat, especially during the spring, summer, and fall. Most people with tick bite illnesses fully recover after a short course of antibiotics, however, there are no vaccines to prevent or medicines that treat Powassan virus disease. 

For more information about ticks, the diseases they spread, safe removal, and how to protect yourself, visit: HealthVermont.gov/BeTickSmart.

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