Tick-borne illnesses on the rise

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Ticks are tiny, but pack a big bite. When most people think about them, they associate them with pets, but, humans should be wary too.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tick-borne diseases are on the rise.

“Lots of tick-borne illnesses in Florida because of our weather. It occurs year-round, so we need to be careful all the time,” Dr. Vandana Bhide said.

Bhide, a hospitalist at Mayo Clinic, said while Lyme disease is rare in Florida, it is possible. In all, the Sunshine State has five tick breeds that carry illnesses.

Dr. Bhide said you should take a shower as soon as you leave a heavily wooded area or a place with tall grass and check your body for ticks. If you do have one, you should use gloves and carefully remove it with tweezers, then put it inside a plastic baggie to give to your doctor.

“A lot of times people don’t even know that they’re bitten, so it becomes kind of challenging. If you have fever, if you get headache. If you have joint aches. Those could all be a sign of a tick-borne illness,” she said.

The CDC suggests wearing long-sleeved clothing and socks while hiking or in wooded areas and using repellent with at least 20 percent DEET. In the meantime, steps are being taken to identify other breeds of ticks and the dangers they bring.

“There is research being done on things like vaccines and better treatments, better diagnosis, because a lot times, it’s very difficult to make a diagnosis of what this illness is,” Bhide said.

Each year, more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported nationwide.