New tick transmitted virus confirmed in Southern Indiana

New tick transmitted virus confirmed in Southern Indiana

CLARK COUNTY, IN (WAVE) -  There's yet another reason to avoid ticks this summer.

It's called Heartland virus and it is believed to be transmitted by the insect. Now, it's making its way through the Hoosier state.

Ticks are found throughout Indiana in grassy and wooded areas. They tend to be most active during the late spring and early summer, so experts warn now is the time to be on high alert.

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"It's a problem this year," Sharon Coleman, ARNP with Baptist Health Floyd, said.

Coleman knows what to look for and what questions to ask when patients who have spent a lot of time outdoors complain of a rash or flu like symptoms.

"If you get bitten by a tick, you are normally bitten by an immature tick, which are called nymphs," Coleman said. "They are hard to see, so that's one of the reasons people don't know."

They can be as small as a pin head and latch on where you may least expect it.

"Ticks can be very intimate. They like the groin area, the arm pits, under the bra, and the waistband," Coleman said.

Though tiny, their damage can be mighty. In 2016, Indiana reported more than 200 cases of tick-borne illness.

"The most important thing is to get antibiotic therapy right away in case you have got transmitted Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever," Coleman said. "The antibiotics can catch it before it can do any damage."

Now, there's another tick transmitted virus to worry about. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed two southern Indiana residents have tested positive for Heartland virus; one in 2015 and one this year.

"Heartland virus was first described in 2012 and there's only been a few cases since then, so scientists are still learning about it," Taryn Stevens, MPH, with the Indiana State Department of Health, said.

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State health officials say both Indiana residents survived their infections. There have only been a few cases detected nationwide and one person has died.  If you find a tick on your body, use tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible and pull up slowly.

"You'll want to get rid of a tick by dunking it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet or wrapping it up in tape," Stevens said.

Prevention is key. Coleman suggests using DEET based products on your skin, and there's also a spray you can use on your clothing.

In your own backyard, it's a good idea to create a tick safe zone. To learn more click here.

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