Tick season is here, and a moist spring may mean there will be more of them this year. To find out what you need to know to avoid tick-born illnesses when you venture into the outdoors, we spoke to Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state communicable disease epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Tick season has started, right?
Yes, it is spring, almost summer, so this is tick season in Colorado. There are lots of different tick species, in Colorado and throughout the U.S. The types of ticks you have in your community are really what determines what types of infections or diseases you can potentially get from them. There are a variety of them. One of the most common ones we think about is Lyme Disease, and that is spread by a tick we actually do not have in Colorado, so Lyme Disease is not something you will catch from a tick here.
What we do have here are other types of infections. We have an infection called Colorado tick fever, there’s a less common infection called Rocky Mountain spotted fever, another infection called Tularemia, another called tickborne relapsing fever. There’s also an unusual illness called tick paralysis. That’s actually not an infection, it’s a reaction to tick saliva that can occur.
This season in particular, we have been hearing quite a bit from our hiking community and our medical providers in the state that they are seeing more ticks than usual. We know ticks like moisture, so when there is a moist spring, that does seem to favor them. Hopefully ticks don’t deter folks from enjoying our beautiful outdoors, but there are some things you can do to decrease your risk.
Where are humans likely to encounter ticks?
We see ticks in the plains as well as at higher elevations. The area you’re in determines what ticks you’re going to see. The tick we see more commonly at elevation is the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick. The ticks we see at lower elevations are going to be dog ticks. We have the Brown Dog Tick and the American Dog Tick in Colorado.
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