FREMONT – The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has identified for the first time an established population of the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, in Eastern Nebraska in Douglas, Sarpy and Saunders counties.

Blacklegged ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other diseases.

With the addition of the blacklegged tick there are now a total of four types of ticks found in the state that can cause illnesses. Ticks are generally found near the ground, in brushy or wooded areas. They can’t jump or fly. Instead, they climb tall grasses or shrubs and wait for you to brush against them. When this happens, they hang on to you with tiny claws and then take a bite.

Recommendations from Three Rivers Public Health Department for protecting yourself from all tick bites remain the same:

Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts and sock when you are outside.

Avoid wooded and brushy areas with tall grass and shrubs.

Use an EPA approved insect repellent with at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin or IR3535 or permethrin-treated clothing.

Shower as soon as possible after spending time outdoors.

Check for ticks daily. Ticks can hide under the armpits, behind the knees, and in the hair.

If you find an attached tick early removal can minimize and often eliminate the chance of infection. To remove an attached tick, you should grasp the tick with a fine-tipped tweezers, as close to the skin as possible, and pull it straight out.

If signs of illness, such as rash or fever, develop in the days and weeks following the bite you should contact your health care provider.

In an alert last week, state health officials said laboratory tests are underway to determine whether the collected ticks in the three counties carry the bacteria that causes Lyme or other known tick-borne pathogens.

Nebraska health officials to date have not confirmed any cases of Lyme disease that have originated in the state. But, they encouraged health care providers to step up their vigilance.

Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash that forms a bull’s-eye pattern, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme disease can be treated with a few weeks of antibiotics. Most people recover completely, although some may be left with joint pain that can be treated with medication. If not treated, however, the infection can spread and affect joints, hearing and the nervous system.

Confirmation of the tick’s presence is based on surveillance by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

Residents of the three counties need to watch for the tick and take precautions.

“They have to have this on their radar screen: We have another tick that showed up,” said Roberto Cortinas of the University of Nebraska School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The problem is that the deer tick is very small and hard to spot — nymphs are dark and about the size of a sesame seed, and adults are slightly larger. Both can carry the bacteria, and both can bite people. The nymphs generally are found in the spring and should have peaked, Cortinas said. Adults should emerge in late August and early September.

There are now four types of medically-important ticks found in Nebraska: the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, Lone Star tick and Blacklegged tick/Deer tick.

For more information regarding tick related diseases you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/.

- BH Media News Service contributed to this report.

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