In Southern Oklahoma, residents are no stranger to diseases spread by ticks.
Dr. Girish Murthy, double Board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases, treats patients on an in-patient basis at Mercy - Ardmore.
“I see those who have the severe end of flea, mosquito or tick bites,” Murthy said. “Both ticks and mosquitoes can carry different types of bacterial and viral diseases to a human by feeding.”
Some symptoms may be mild flu-like symptoms like fatigue or joint pain, Murthy said. Others can lead to more acute illness, especially in patients who are elderly or have comorbidities such as kidney or heart failure, heart disease or diabetes. Altered mental status, high fever, even sepsis, which would include low blood pressure, multi-organ damage and other issues may lead to patients requiring admittance to the hospital.
The key thing with dealing with these issues is prevention, especially for those that live in wooded areas, that go camping or to the lake. The best thing is to wear long sleeve clothing and use mosquito spray with DEET to help prevent bites and to make sure to do a thorough check for ticks upon returning home as well, Murthy said.
“A good thing to do when you come home from a long hike is to take all your clothes and put them in the dryer,” Murthy said. “The heat from the dryer will kill any remaining ticks.”
Murthy also recommended a shower, paying special attention to areas such as armpits, between toes and behind ears—dark, hidden areas where the parasitic insects like to stow away to feed.
“If you see a tick feeding, don’t panic,” Murthy said. “Grab some tweezers, clean them with alcohol, then use them to remove the tick as close to the head as possible.”
A slow, steady pull is the ticket, Murthy said. Using your fingers could lead to parts of the tick remaining in your blood stream, which could lead to disease.
Pets should also be treated for ticks and fleas to help prevent the spread of disease, Murthy said.  
If a person gets a bite and notices a high fever, or altered mental status or confusion, or a rash either near the bite location or elsewhere, they should go to their primary care doctor right away, Murthy said.
When that isn’t possible, or if the person has other conditions that might make treatment more difficult, they should go to the emergency room.
“There are medications that can treat the symptoms and the infection as well,” Murthy said.
Viral infections such as West Nile have no specific treatment, but medical professionals can monitor elevated temperatures and other potential complications and offer supportive care to make sure the patient stays hydrated. If this isn’t possible at home, then the affected person should be taken for emergency care.