The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) is alerting state residents of a recent increase in reported Colorado tick fever cases.
Five cases of Colorado tick fever have been identified in Wyoming so far this year, with four in Sublette County and one in Park County. WDH typically sees an average of two cases annually with no reported cases in some years.
Courtney Tillman, an infectious disease epidemiologist with WDH, said Colorado tick fever spreads to people through bites of infected Rocky Mountain wood ticks.
The best way to prevent Colorado tick fever is to avoid tick bites. Recommended actions include:
- Use insect repellent, such as DEET, when outdoors
- Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors
- Treat outdoor clothing, such as hiking clothing, with permethrin
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass
- Do tick checks after spending time outdoors
- Apply pesticides outdoors to reduce ticks in yards
- Clear brush, tall grass, and leaf litter from yards to reduce the number of ticks
- Prevent tick bites for pets by using prevention products recommended by veterinarians and performing tick checks after spending time outdoors
“If you find a tick embedded on yourself or your pet, do not jerk or twist the tick to remove it,” Tillman said. “Instead, use fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick as close to the surface as possible and steadily pull the tick upward. You’ll also want to clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.” Tillman also advises disposing of ticks by putting in alcohol, placing in sealed containers, wrapping in tape or flushing down the toilet.
Symptoms develop 1-14 days after the bite and may include fever, chills, headache, body aches and feeling tired. Some people may experience a “biphasic” fever in which they have fever for a few days, feel better for several days, and then have another period of fever. While symptoms can last for several weeks, most people do not experience severe illness. There is no specific treatment for Colorado tick fever.
Tillman encouraged anyone concerned they may have Colorado tick fever to contact a healthcare provider. Many of the symptoms are shared by other illnesses, including COVID-19, so discussing potential exposure to ticks with medical professionals is recommended.