Uptick in ticks reported statewide

DENVER -- There seems to be an uptick in ticks, and it’s ticking off some Colorado residents.

They’re not really upset, but they are concerned about the increase in the insects.

“I have seen one on my dog,” Boris Mannsfeld of Lakewood said. "I was totally surprised because he’s never had one.”

While data for the 2017 season isn’t available, experts at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are noticing an anecdotal increase.

“We have gotten more calls from people indicating that they have been bitten by ticks,” state public health veterinarian Jennifer House said.

The infestation is likely because of an unusually warm and wet spring, which allowed the insects to breed earlier. However, that is not the only possible explanation.

“Arthropods, ticks, mosquitoes, other bugs do have cycles and some years are worse than other,” House said.

Ticks are found in all parts of Colorado and at all elevations. They tend to hide in tall grasses, under wood debris and in cool, dark places.

“They’re waiting to pick up a ride on a dog as it goes running by,” House said.

Ticks can transmit diseases to humans and pets.

While Lyme disease does not exist in Colorado, the ticks found in the Centennial State can pass off Colorado tick fever, tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Colorado tick fever is the most prevalent of the tick-related diseases in Colorado. The symptoms are similar West Nile virus.

“It’s going to be an unexplained fever, aches, pains, a flu-like illness in the middle of summer,” House said.

Colorado health experts suggest checking yourself and pets for ticks after every hike.

“You’re going to want to check your hair line, behind your ears, between your legs, the back of your knees, your arm pits,” House said.

In pets, ticks can latch on anywhere but are most often found behind the ears and in the paws.

If a tick is found, use tweezers to grasp the bug as close to skin as possible and pull straight out. Experts warn not to squeeze ticks that are attached.

“Don’t squeeze it because if you squeeze it, it agitates the tick and whatever is in its mouth can actually be forced into your body,” House said.