Summer is the peak time for people to be bitten by
ticks and mosquitoes, which may carry diseases that can infect humans.
The Department of Health tracks cases of these diseases and has noted a
recent increase in human cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and
ehrlichiosis, both of which are transmitted through tick bites. TDOH
urges Tennesseans to follow commonsense precautions to protect
themselves and help reduce the risk of illness.
Statistics from the TDOH Communicable and Environmental Diseases
Services show a moderate increase of 65 confirmed cases of Rocky
Mountain Spotted Fever statewide for this year, compared to 46 for the
same period last year. CEDS also reports 17 confirmed cases of
ehrlichiosis statewide so far this year, compared to 14 for this time in
“Increases in these illnesses typically occur during the summer
months. The increased number of cases this year compared to last year is
a reminder of the importance of preventing tick bites and controlling
ticks around our homes,” said John Dunn, DVM, PhD, public health
veterinarian with TDOH. “If you do find a tick on your skin, removing
it promptly will reduce your risk of illness.”
Ticks are common in Tennessee, and can be found on lawns and in
household landscaping as well as wooded areas. These precautions can
help you protect yourself in environments where ticks are present:
●Wear light-colored clothing to help you spot ticks that may be
crawling on you.
●Tuck pants into socks to keep ticks off your legs.
●Apply EPA approved repellents to discourage tick attachment.
Repellents containing permethrin can be sprayed on shoes and clothing
and will last for several days. Repellents containing DEET can be
applied to skin, but must be reapplied every few hours. Follow label
instructions for repellents.
●Search your entire body for ticks upon return from a potentially
tick-infested area. Remove any tick you find on your body; grasp with
tweezers and pull straight back if the tick is attached.
●Check children for ticks, especially in their hair, when returning
from potentially tick-infested areas.
●Ticks may also be carried into your home on clothing and pets, so
examine both carefully.
●Reduce tick habitats around your home by removing leaf litter and
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most serious illness caused by
ticks in the United States. Symptoms usually appear five to 10 days
after a tick bite, and may resemble symptoms of other diseases. Initial
symptoms of RMSF can include fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, lack
of appetite and severe headache. Later symptoms may include rash,
abdominal pain, joint pain and diarrhea. RMSF can be a serious illness,
and is best treated with antibiotics.
Ehrlichiosis is the general name used to describe several bacterial
diseases that affect animals and humans. In the U.S., these diseases are
transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. The symptoms of
ehrlichiosis are similar to those of many other illnesses. Initial signs
and symptoms generally include fever, headache, fatigue and muscle
aches. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough,
joint pains, confusion and occasionally rash. Symptoms typically appear
five to 10 days following the tick bite. It is possible that many
individuals who become infected with ehrlichiae bacteria do not become
ill or develop only very mild symptoms. Ehrlichiosis can be treated with
For more information on preventing tick-borne illness, visit the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at
Tennesseans should also take precautions to protect themselves from
West Nile Virus and other diseases transmitted by mosquito bites. Most
mosquitoes likely to transmit WNV bite at dawn and dusk. The best way to
prevent WNV infection is to avoid mosquito bites. These simple tips can
●If you must go outside during dawn and dusk, use insect repellent or
wear long sleeves, long pants and socks.
●Eliminate standing water near your home, which can serve as a
breeding ground for mosquitoes. Many containers, even those as small as
a bottle cap, can hold enough water for mosquitoes to breed.
●Keep windows and doors closed or cover them with screens to prevent
mosquitoes from entering your home.
●Use insect repellent containing either DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon
eucalyptus or IR3535.
For more information about West Nile Virus, visit the TDOH Web site at