Date: April 2020
Member employees may find themselves outdoors and on the job for many reasons. Working outside means that employees may be exposed to ticks that may carry disease. Though instances of tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, fluctuate from year to year, the number of cases overall have been increasing since 2000, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
This trend does not need to continue. Risks associated with tick bites can be managed effectively with careful identification, tick bite prevention and removal best practices, and prompt reporting of tick-borne diseases.
Watch for Tiny Terror
Of the 13 tick species in Minnesota, the one of greatest concern is the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick. This tick species is the only one in the state known to transmit Lyme disease. If left untreated, the bacterial infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
Deer ticks have a brownish red body, black head and black legs. They are small. Adults measure around one-eighth inch long, while the nymph is just under one-sixteenth of an inch.
These ticks are most active from May through July. But milder seasons can see ticks emerge earlier and stay active longer with additional cases of Lyme disease occurring in September and October.
Tips to Prevent Tick Bites
The best offense to tick-borne diseases is a good defense. Employees who work outside should follow these best practices during tick season:
- Use a chemical repellent effective against ticks on clothing and skin. Reapply per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Wear clothes that limit skin exposure.
- Consider treating clothes with permethrin or using pretreated clothes.
- Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to see.
- Tuck pant legs into socks.
- Avoid vegetation. Ticks tend to hide in brush and leaf litter on the ground and grab onto people or animals as they pass.
- Frequently check for and promptly remove ticks from the body, clothing or gear.
To remove a feeding tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady even pressure. Do not jerk or twist the tick; also do not squeeze the tick’s body excessively.
- After removing the tick, clean the area with soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with one’s fingers. Either save the tick for testing or dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet, wrapping it tightly in tape or submerging it in alcohol.
Report Bites Right Away
If an employee has reason to suspect that he or she has been bitten by a tick in the course of work-related duties, the member should file a First Report of Injury with MCIT as soon as possible. If flu-like symptoms or a rash develops and treatment is needed, the member should inform MCIT as soon as possible.
The MCIT workers’ compensation claims representative will contact the employee and employer for additional information as needed.
Take Advantage of Tick Resources
The Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites provide several resources to help raise awareness of and educate about ticks and tick-borne illnesses. Items include tick identification cards, posters and brochures, which are useful for short training sessions (a.k.a. toolbox talks).