It’s Tick Season: What types of ticks are in Colorado and what diseases do they carry?

Tick Troubles

Courtesy: CDPHE

Image from Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

The wet spring and summer we’ve experienced means an increased chance of finding a tick on your body when you (or your pet) head home from spending time outdoors. We are in the midst of tick season, and while we do not have ticks that carry Lyme disease in Colorado, there are some health hazards you should be aware of when you head into the wilderness.

What is a tick and what types are here?

Ticks are small insects that are part of the arachnid family (same as spiders).  As part of their life cycle, all adult ticks need blood meals, making humans and pets prime targets.  Ticks can transmit diseases through their saliva, so being bit by one can put you at an increased risk for disease.  Ticks carry many diseases and they can change by region.

In Mesa County, we’re most impacted by the Brown Dog tick. Other ticks found in Colorado include the Rocky Mountain wood tick and American dog tick.   You can view a map from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showing regions where the different types of ticks are found. 

What diseases do they carry (in Colorado):

  • Tick-borne relapsing fever is a bacterial infection that can cause recurring bouts of fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and nausea.  It is usually linked to sleeping in rustic, rodent-infested cabins in the mountains. It’s spread by infected soft ticks.
  • Tularemia is a disease that can infect animals and people.  Symptoms vary depending on how the person was infected, but are typically severe. In most cases, it can be treated successfully with antibiotics. It’s spread by infected dog ticks, wood ticks, and lone star ticks.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a serious bacterial illness, which can be deadly if not treated early with the right antibiotic.bacterial disease spread through the bite of an infected tick.  Many people experience fever, headache, and rash. This disease can be deadly if not treated with the right antibiotic. The name can be misleading as this illness is typically found in the Midwest and Southeastern parts of the United States. It’s spread by infected dog ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks, and brown dog ticks.
  • Colorado Tick Fever is a rare, viral disease. It’s spread by Rocky Mountain wood ticks.

Since 2015 there have been 7 cases of Tularemia and 1 case of Spotted Fever reported in Mesa County.

Ways to protect yourself:

Preventing tick bites on both you and your pets is the best protection.Use an EPA-approved repellent that’s effective against ticks–look for a product that contains DEET, IR3535, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or 2-undecanone Treat your clothing and gear with a repellent to protect from tick bites. Pick one with DEET, it’ll serve as protection from mosquitoes, that can transmit West Nile Virus, too.  Avoid contact with ticks by walking in the center of trails and not heading into wooded, brushy areas with high grass.  

When you come in from the outdoors, do a check for ticks on both your clothing and yourself.  

Ticks can be carried on your clothes so tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks. If the clothes require washing first, use hot water if you can.

Image from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

When you are checking for ticks be sure to look:

  • Under the arms,
  • In, around and behind the ears,
  • Inside belly button,
  • Back of the knees,
  • In and around the hair,
  • Between the legs, and
  • Around the waist

If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic.  The key is to remove it as soon as you can.  There are specialized products on the market, but fine-tipped tweezers work the best.  

Grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as you can

  • Pull up with steady, even pressure.
  • Don’t twist or jerk the tick.
  • Clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
  • Flush the tick down the toilet or put it in a sealed bag. 

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