NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Summer is prime time for ticks, and the Tennessee Department of Health said tick-borne illnesses are a growing concern throughout the state. 

There have been increases in the tick populations in the last few decades, meaning some tick-borne illnesses are becoming more common.

Several tick species make their home in the tall grasses and shrubs of Middle Tennessee, and some of these ticks carry diseases that can make Middle Tennesseans sick. Dr. William Schaffner, a Professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt, said Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is Tennessee’s most common tick-borne illness.

However, other tick-borne illnesses are present, and some are even becoming more common.

“There’s a disease called Ehrlichiosis, which is very similar to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. And with the spread of ticks across the United States, we’re even seeing some incursions of Lyme disease into Tennessee. We haven’t had much of that. Hardly any, in the past,” said Dr. Schaffner.

The symptoms of tick-borne illnesses can be severe, especially if you don’t receive prompt treatment.

“You develop fever, aches and pains, not feeling well, headache, and sometimes also a rash. Please seek medical attention right away. We do have antibiotics that can treat these diseases and get you better promptly. But early diagnosis is indeed important.”

Dr. Schaffner added the best thing you can do is avoid tick bites altogether.

“It’s very important if you’re going out even into your backyard to use insect repellent that contains DEET, that is a good tick repellent. And then once you’ve come back inside, check yourself to make sure that despite everything, you haven’t acquired a tick that’s sitting there.”

And if you do have a tick, Dr. Schaffner recommended careful removal.

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“The approved way to remove a tick if you find it embedded is to take a tissue and grasp the tick firmly right down to the skin. And then pull gently perpendicular to the skin Don’t shirk away, because you might leave the head of the tick embedded. So just pull perpendicular gently. And that works very, very well.”

Also remember to check your pets for ticks, if they spend a lot of time outdoors.