Beware of ticks.
Rainfall is up in southwest Missouri -- the area is on the verge of setting a new record for most rainfall in June -- which is good for all kinds of creepy-crawly things.
The Jasper County Health Department said it had reports of six cases of people falling ill to diseases carried by ticks in just the past week alone, and a total of 26 people falling ill with tick-borne diseases in 2007.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported that a child in the northeast part of the state died 10 days after being diagnosed with ehrlichia chaffeensis, a tick-borne disease, despite aggressive medical treatment.
"Twenty-six cases is higher than we'd expect to see this time of year," said Tony Moehr, director of the Jasper County Health Department. "We have information from the state claiming that the rate of tick-borne diseases across Missouri is higher so it would seem to be a good year for ticks."
According to a written release from the Health Department, cases of suspected and confirmed "tick-borne rickettsial diseases, including ehrlichiosis/anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever have increased in Missouri compared to the previous five years."
The health department said ticks can transmit a number of diseases, including lyme disease and lyme-like disease, bacteria-caused illnesses from an infected deer tick and treatable with antibiotics; ehrlichiosis, a bacterial disease; Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a disease that is 97 percent curable but can be fatal without treatment; and tularemia, also called rabbit fever, a bacterial disease.
Moehr said the cases reported in Jasper County have been lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Q fever, an illness that can be spread by ticks, but can also be spread by cattle.
Moehr said the tick has to attach itself to a person and remain attached for a long period of time before the person is in danger of catching a disease.
"Basically after attaching themselves, they inject an anticoagulant, which allows the blood to flow freely," Moehr said. "That anticoagulant can carry the bacteria that can cause the diseases. You cannot get the illness from them just walking on you and there is some evidence that if you get them off you within a couple of hours of them attaching, you greatly reduce your risk.
"People want to avoid squishing the tick, especially if it's attached to you, so you don't get an injection of whatever is inside the tick."
The health department said ticks feed on human and animal blood and generally bite humans in warm places such as the underarms, sock line, behind the ears, under tight-fitting clothes and in the hair.
"The most effective way to prevent tick-born disease is to limit exposure to ticks," the department said. "Avoid their habitat in moist, cool places under ground cover, brush or leaves. Dress appropriately when outdoors."
Moehr said people should wear light-colored clothes so ticks are easy to spot. They should also wear long pants, socks and shoes; tuck their pants into their socks; use an insect repellant that contains DEET, according to manufacturer instructions; and wash off your skin when returning indoors.