Tick-borne Rocky Mountain spotted fever cases up in Tenn.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The warm weather came early this year, and so did the ticks. Now a potentially deadly, tick-borne disease is already on the rise in Tennessee.

Ticks can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It's a serious illness, and ticks love to hide in tall grass, bushes, and trees.

The Tennessee Department of Health is seeing more of the illness this year, with 38 cases. That may not seem like a lot, but last year there were only 6 cases by this time, and the summer months are when ticks bite the most.

The American Dog tick and the Brown Dog tick are carriers in East Tennessee.

The symptoms can resemble other diseases, so you may not realize it's actually the most serious illness ticks carry.

Donitra Blair said she checks her kids from head to toe for any changes, but didn't know that ticks could carry serious diseases. "No I wouldn't think about that," she said.

Connie Cronley, an Epidemiology nurse at the Knox County Health Department, said the symptoms include, "Fever headache, body aches, kind of flu like symptoms. Folks can even have some nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, that kind of thing."

Cronley said anyone with a weaker immune system needs to be extra cautious, such as children, the elderly, and pregnant women.

Stephanie Gaddis enjoyed Friday afternoon at the park with her daughter and she said, "We have a small dog and a small baby and so we keep a really close eye on both of them," when it comes to ticks.

Cronley said, "The main areas you want to look through, the hair, and make sure there's nothing there, and you have to remember ticks like those warm spots on our bodies."

She said it can take some time for a tick-borne disease to spread to you, so you want to get them off as soon as possible.

The CDC recommends removing a tick with a nice pair of fine-tipped tweezers, even though there are specialty tools sold in stores. Just grasp the tick and pull, and then clean the area. They advise to ignore folklore remedies, like petroleum jelly or nail polish.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be treated, if caught early.

If you want to keep ticks off you, there are a lot of bug repellents available at stores but most of them don't work on ticks. The EPA has a shopping guide, so you know what buy. CLICK HERE

For more information on preventing tick-borne illness, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, CLICK HERE.


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