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Tickborne infections - prevention and control

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Several things may be done to prevent the spread of tickborne disease, including tick avoidance, using personal protection, checking skin and removing ticks if present, and implementing tick control measures. For more information visit see the CDC Preventing tick bites site.

Tickborne infections home

Tick avoidance

If possible, avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and lots of leaf litter since ticks prefer these areas. If you do go into areas like this, try to  stay in the center of a cleared trail to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter.

Personal protection

  • Use effective tick repellants and apply according to the label instructions. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that adults use repellants with 20-30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing to prevent tick bites. Again, be sure to follow the label directions whenever using repellants. For more information on repellants see the EPA Insect Repellants: Use and Effectiveness site.
  • Permethrin is also effective against ticks and lasts for days to weeks but should only be applied to clothes and not directly to the skin.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, and long socks to keep ticks on the outside of clothing. Light clothing will help spot ticks. 
  • Tuck shirts into pants and pants into shoes or socks to keep ticks on the outside of clothing. If outside for an extended period of time then tape pant legs where pants and socks meet so that ticks cannot crawl under clothes.

Check skin and remove ticks

Perform daily tick checks after being outdoors in areas where ticks are present, even in one's own yard.  Remove any ticks from clothing, gear, and pets before going inside. Inspect all parts of the body carefully, especially the armpits, scalp, and groin. Take a shower or bath as soon as possible to wash off any ticks that are still crawling on you. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. 

Attached ticks should be immediately removed with fine-tipped tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible. 

Tick removal

Tick removal imageDonít use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products to remove a tick.  To remove an attached tick, grasp it with narrow-bladed tweezers or forceps as close as possible to attachment (skin) site, and pull upward and out with a firm and steady tension. If tweezers are not available, use fingers shielded with tissue paper or rubber gloves. Do not handle with bare hands. Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick which may contain infectious fluids. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands. See or call a doctor if there is a concern about incomplete tick removal. It is important that a tick be properly removed as soon as it is discovered. 

Visit your doctor if you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, and describe when and where you may have acquired the tick.

To kill any ticks that may still be present on clothing, launder clothes using hot water and then dry using high heat for at least one hour.

Tick Control

Create tick-safe zones around homes, parks and recreational areas. 

  • Clear overgrown grass, brush and leaf litter from the premises or trails. 
  • Use wood chips or gravel as a barrier between lawns and wooded areas. 
  • Mow lawns frequently and remove cut grass and leaves. 
  • Keep tables, swing sets, play equipment, etc. away from woods, shrubs and tall grass. Place in a sunny location, if possible. 
  • Discourage deer intrusion by constructing barriers and not feeding them. 
  • Remove woodpiles or stack wood neatly in dry areas away from houses to prevent rodent harborage. 
  • Acaricides (pesticides that kill ticks) may be helpful to use during spring but a professional pesticide company should be consulted prior to use.

Apply pesticides outdoors to control ticks. For more information visit the Environmental Protection Agency's - Pesticide safety.

  • Applying an acaracide (tick pesticide) in the springtime can greatly reduce the number of ticks in your yard.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency and each state have different rules and regulations related to pesticide application on residential properties; identify these before pesticide application.  
  • Consider hiring a professional pesticide company

Additional resources

For additional tick prevention and control information, please visit the following sites:

Contacts

Wisconsin Local Health Departments - Regional offices - Tribal agencies

Diep Hoang Johnson, Vectorborne Disease Epidemiologist
Wisconsin Division of Public Health 
Bureau of Communicable Diseases and Emergency Response
(Phone 608-267-0249)  (Fax 608-261-4976)

Last Revised: August 05, 2014