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Protect Yourself from Tick-Borne Diseases
Tick-borne disease is an occupational health risk for military personnel, especially in summertime, when people can come into contact with ticks in the great outdoors in search of a “blood meal.”

The best way to steer clear of ticks is to recognize their habitat – and avoid it. “Ticks stay in – or on the edge of – shady, brushy areas,” Ellen Stromdahl, an entomologist with the U.S. Army Public Health Command, said in a article last year. “You can find them in tall grass, especially in wooded areas.”

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about tick-borne diseases in the United States on its website, including Lyme disease and Babesiosis, which are both found primarily in the Northeast and upper Midwest, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which exists nationwide with five states – North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri – accounting for 60 percent of all cases.
Once bitten, people may develop flu-like symptoms from these and other tick-borne illnesses, including fever, chills, headache and fatigue. Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that if left untreated, can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system, also causes a skin rash that resembles a bull's-eye.

Here are some precautions CDC officials recommend you take if you go to an area where you may come into contact with ticks:
  • Walk on cleared trails and avoid overgrown grass and brush.
  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks when outdoors and tuck your pant legs into your socks.
  • Apply repellents to skin and clothing.
  • Check your entire body for ticks and shower soon after being outdoors.
Newly identified tick-borne diseases include 364D rickettsiosis, transmitted to humans by the Pacific Coast tick that has been found in California and the Heartland virus, eight cases of which have been identified among residents of Missouri and Tennessee as of March 2014, according to the CDC. “Recent studies suggest that ticks, namely lone star ticks, may transmit the virus,” its website states.

Ehrlichiosis, a general name used to describe several bacterial diseases that affect animals and humans, is also transmitted by the lone star tick, primarily in the Southeastern and South-Central United States.

Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells and is spread, like Lyme disease, by blacklegged ticks, commonly known as “deer ticks” – typically ones in the nymph stage when they are about the size of a poppy seed.

According to the CDC, those who are elderly, have had their spleen removed, or with a weakened immune system may be at risk for severe illness or even death. Very young children are also at greater risk of such serious consequences.

Most adults are, however, unlikely to die from it. Many people who are infected do not even have any symptoms, according to the CDC.

Effective treatments exist for tick-borne diseases. In some instances, proper and timely diagnosis and treatment could literally save someone’s life.

For more information on diseases and conditions that are spread by ticks, insects or other pests, you can visit the Armed Forces Pest Management Board website. The Department of Defense also provides a Human Tick Test Kit Program.