Warm winter a recipe for more ticks

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Health officials say hot and humid weather is a recipe for a bad bug season, but this year's warm winter substantiates the problem.

"This year we’ve already started seeing fleas and ticks as early as February or March," said Dr. Kelly Razek, a veterinarian for Chisholm Trail Animal Hospital. "I believe that’s because of the tepid winter we had."

Razek says she's seeing an influx of bug bites on her patients.

The increased number of parasitic insects brings an increased risk of disease.

If a tick remains in your skin for an extended period of time, it increases your risk of tick-born diseases.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a potentially fatal tick-born disease.

The CDC says 15 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever have been reported in Kansas. Three of those cases were in Sedgwick County.

People are also at risk for Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Lyme disease. If you can contract it from a tick, so can your pet.

"All of those can be spread to dogs just like they can to humans," said Razek.

So how do you prevent the bites?

For pets, Razek suggests a prescription flea and tick medicine that you treat your pet with monthly. She says she doesn't recommend over-the-counter treatment.

"They can have some pretty serious side effects and they don’t work a lot of times," said Razek.

For humans, the CDC recommends a repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. It also suggests to avoid wooded areas or areas with tall grass.

What if you or your pet is bitten?

"The most important part is getting the head of the tick out." said Razek. "You can either do that using tweezers or there are little devices made specifically for taking ticks off."

She recommends taking your animal to your vet if you feel uncomfortable removing the tick yourself.