Local News

Tick-Borne Illnesses Continue To Spread Across N.C.

Posted August 31, 2004 4:34 a.m. EDT

— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers for diseases and deaths in the past year ending in August. One number that stands out is for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a tick-borne illness. Officials said cases have more than doubled.

Ticks from dogs are the most common in the state and the main carrier of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Dr. Nolan Newton, chief of pest management in the state, said the disease is spreading beyond central North Carolina. It is spreading further eastward into the coastal plain.

"We went from about 97 cases this time last year to over 200 cases this time this year," he said.

Ticks are most common in medium to tall grass and shrubs. They usually hitch a ride on clothing and look for skin where they can find blood.

To avoid ticks, experts suggest wearing long sleeves and long pants and using repellents. They also say to check your body frequently, especially your scalp and behind the neck and ears. It is also important not to panic if you find one.

"We do know that ticks need to be attached at least 6 hours before they can transmit disease to you, so you want to get them off very quickly," Newton said.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be fatal if left untreated with a 2 percent to 3 percent mortality rate.

Lyme disease

is also up slightly from 56 cases to 73. It rarely causes death, but it can lead to some chronic problems.