Health department addresses tick threat

The Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Departments received a grant to install informational boxes and insect repellent at the Lehigh Portland Trail. The boxes contain information about tick-borne diseases.

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Local News

July 1, 2024 - 2:36 PM

The Iola health department secured a grant to install boxes along the Lehigh Portland Trails that provide education about tick-borne diseases and insect repellant. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Visitors to the Lehigh Portant Trails can learn about the dangers of tick-borne diseases thanks to the efforts of the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Departments. 

The Iola health department received a $2,500 grant from Your Community Foundation to install resource stations along the trail. The boxes include educational brochures about how to prevent tick-borne diseases, and insect-repellent products containing DEET. Other sponsors included Thrive Allen County and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. 

“Tick-borne illnesses are a huge concern,” said Brittany Frishman, RN, maternal child health and breastfeeding supervisor for SEKMCHD. “We want to promote health and safety, and encourage our community to go outside safely.”

The effort began through the work of Lindsey Shaughnessy, a former public health nurse who was doing outreach work when she noticed an increasing number of local cases of alpha-gal syndrome. Alpha-gal syndrome is a food allergy that causes a reaction to red meat and dairy products. It is caused by a tick bite and there is no cure. 

Shaughnessy and Frishman worked together to write a grant request. Then, Shaughnessy’s child was diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome, which made their work even more personal. 

“We are seeing more and more cases of alpha-gal syndrome as well as Lyme disease  and Rocky Mountain spotted fever,” Frishman said. “It’s a hot topic in public health.”

The grant also allowed the health department to send out letters to parents of school-aged children this summer, alerting them to the dangers of tick-borne diseases. 

Frishman hopes to pursue community sponsorships to continue those educational efforts “so people can enjoy the outdoors without having to experience illness.”

The Iola health department secured a grant to install boxes along the Lehigh Portland Trails that provide education about tick-borne diseases and insect repellant. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

HERE ARE TIPS to stay safe by preventing tick-borne diseases, as recommended by the CDC:

• Treat clothing and gear with products containing .5% permethrin and use EPA-registered insect repellents such as those that contain DEET. 

• Walk in the center of trails and avoid wooded, brushy areas when possible. 

• Examine your skin, clothing, gear and pets for ticks after being outdoors.

• Shower within two hours of coming indoors. This is a good time to do a “tick check.” Ticks are often found under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in and around hair, between legs and around the waist.

• If you find a tick, use a special tool or fine-tipped tweezers designed to remove the tick with its head still attached. Clean the area around the bite and your hands with alcohol or soap and water. Place the tick in a sealed bag or container containing alcohol or flush it down the toilet. 

Watch for symptoms over the next 48 to 72 hours. If you develop a rash or fever within the next several weeks, tell your doctor about the tick bite, including when and where it most likely occurred. 

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