EAGLE -- It's a topic that can make your skin crawl: ticks. And we're hearing they're out in force this season.
With more ticks, may come more tick-borne illnesses. But the good news is the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare says "it's been quiet" so far in terms of diseases in humans this year.
However, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is one nasty disease not many people are aware of. One local mom's alarms rang when her son went camping near Lowman and came down with a fever days later.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a very serious illness. It's spread through a bite from an infected tick - and it can be deadly.
Eagle resident Amy Janson doesn't think her son has it now, but as soon as he started showing symptoms after getting a tick bite over Memorial Day Weekend, she took him to the doctor.
"They were out hiking, having a great time and they came back and everybody but my daughter had several ticks on them," Amy Janson said. "That evening my father-in-law was touching Cash's head and could feel one on his head... He grabbed his tweezers and was able to remove it wholly and put it in a bag and bring it back to me so I could have it to keep an eye on him."
Amy did research and looked up what kind of tick it was and discovered that species can transmit RMSF.
"I know in Idaho we're so lucky because it's pretty rare, but this season seems to be a huge amount of ticks. So I didn't know if these were going to be diseased ticks or what was to become of it," she added.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says most people who get sick with RMSF come down with symptoms similar to other diseases, such as fever, headache and muscle aches. Rash is a very common sign in people who are sick with RMSF, but it typically develops a few days after a fever begins - and a fever and other symptoms may not come on for several days after the bite.
"It might take a little while for the infection to kinda take hold," Idaho Department of Health & Welfare State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Leslie Tengelsen said.
"Knowing he had been bitten by a tick we knew to watch for it. Day 10 he had a fever and a headache," Jenson told KTVB.
She wasn't going to take any risks and took Cash to urgent care.
"Specifically, because they knew he had been bitten by a tick they're treating him for that just to be cautious," she said. "I don't think people realize Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is pretty severe."
The doctor didn't order tests, Janson says, but put Cash on antibiotics right away. He just finished his third dose and is feeling much better.
Experts say the disease can be deadly if it's not treated early with Doxycycline.
"Sometimes you don't always realize you've been bitten by a tick," Dr. Tengelsen said.
If you got bit or spent time in the woods or high brush areas and you get sick, Dr. Tengelsen says see a doctor right away. CDC notes that ticks live in grassy, brushy or wooded areas - or on animals - so spending time doing activities outside will bring you in contact with ticks.
Dr. Tengelsen says while tick-borne diseases are really rare here, RMSF is spread by species of ticks we have in Idaho.
"We see an average of four cases a year," she said. "Most of the ticks we have in Idaho do not tend to carry a lot of disease."
To prevent the nasty little guys from biting you, CDC recommends spraying your clothes, shoes and gear with products that have Permethrin and use an EPA-registered insect repellent with DEET.
"Wearing long sleeves, long pants - I know that's kind of hard in the summertime. But really light material, light colors," Tengelsen added.
After being outside, CDC recommends the following:
"Check your clothing for ticks: Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks effectively.
Shower soon after being outdoors: Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors: Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, which even includes your backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around the hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
If you do find an attached tick, remove it ASAP with tweezers; experts advise getting as close to the skin as possible and pulling it straight out. Then, like Amy, watch for signs of illness such as rash or fever in the days and weeks following the bite and see a health care provider if those occur.
Ticks are teeny when they're not engorged, so they're hard to spot.
"I would like to know if these ticks that are around are diseased or if they're not," Janson said. "In my heart of hearts I'm thinking he probably just had a virus because he feels really good today. But, nonetheless, at least I know we're taking care of whatever it could be, in case it wasn't that."
Idaho Health & Welfare says while they track tick-borne diseases, they do not track ticks. However, like Amy's father-in-law did, you can hang on to that bug.
"At the state laboratory we don't routinely identify or test ticks for diseases. However, if you have a tick that's embedded in your skin or you have a bite, you develop a kind of a rash or illness from the tick bite, you may consider keeping that tick you've removed in a secure jar so that we could look at it later," Dr . Tengelsen said.
Outdoor pets can carry ticks, so it's important you keep up with their tick prevention and medication as well.