State health officials announced today that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed two cases of Heartland virus infection in Indiana over the last two years. Both patients were residents of southern Indiana and survived their infections.
Heartland virus is a recently discovered virus that is thought to be transmitted by ticks. The most common signs and symptoms are fever with flu-like symptoms and decreases in blood cells that are important in blood clotting and fighting infection. Only a small number of Heartland virus cases have been detected nationally, with others reported in Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Most cases have required hospitalization.
“Tick bites can cause serious illness and even death, and the discovery of Heartland virus gives Hoosiers another important reason to take precautions,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “If you become ill after spending time outdoors, visit your health care provider immediately — especially if you found an attached tick. Prompt diagnosis of tick-borne illness helps prevent complications.”
Ticks are found throughout Indiana in grassy and wooded areas. They tend to be most active during the late spring and early summer. Other tick-borne diseases found in Indiana include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In 2016, Indiana reported more than 200 cases of tick-borne illness.
“It’s really important to avoid tick bites and conduct thorough tick checks during and after your time outdoors—even if you’re in your own backyard,” said Jennifer Brown, DVM, MPH, state public health veterinarian. “This will prevent not only Heartland virus, but also other tick-borne diseases.”
Hoosiers can reduce their risk of tick bites by:
· Avoiding direct contact with ticks by staying away from wooded and brushy areas and walking in the center of trails
· Using EPA-registered insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus
· Applying products containing 0.5% permethrin to clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents
After outdoor activities, people should conduct full-body tick checks using a hand-held or full-length mirror. Children should be assisted when performing tick checks. Showering or bathing can help remove any unattached ticks. Pets, coats, and day packs should also be checked for unattached ticks. Tumbling dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 20 minutes will kill unattached ticks on clothing.
Attached ticks may be safely removed by using tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin and then pulling outward with steady and even pressure. After the tick is removed, the area should be washed thoroughly. The tick should be discarded by submerging it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Ticks should never be crushed with the fingernails.
Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at www.StateHealth.in.gov for important health and safety information, or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1.