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What you need to know about ticks in Western Montana

Posted at 10:17 AM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 12:17:45-04

MISSOULA – These sunny days are inspiring many Montanans to get back outside!

Biking, hiking and camping can now be found anywhere under the Big Sky, but the warmer weather also brings out disease-carrying bugs.

Ticks were responsible for almost 60,000 cases of disease in 2017. Montana ticks can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Colorado Tick Fever, rabbit fever, and relapsing fever, so experts are reminding outdoorsmen to take precautions.

Missoula City-County Health Department Immunization Clinic Manager Colleen Morris says there’s already been a case this spring.

“So we do know that there was one Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever case reported already this year,” she told MTN News.

Ticks are most active during the summer months, from now until mid-July in Montana.

Symptoms for RMSF can include fever, headache, muscle pain, and vomiting. According to the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks website, it can cause kidney fever and shock, and lead to death.

There are about 25 cases of a tickborne illness recorded in Montana every year.

Lyme Disease is the most common, and experts say there are 11 cases in the state each year. About half the reported cases of tickborne illness occur in other states, and the ticks in Montana do not carry Lyme disease.

There are antibiotics available if you get bit. “If you know that you’ve definitely been bit, that’s something that your healthcare provider would want to know,” Morris said.

The best way to prevent a tick bite is to avoid the areas where ticks are found. You can also use bug repellent, wear light-colored clothing so they are easy to spot and remember to check yourself, children and pets after recreating outdoors.