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Ticks with bacteria that causes Lyme disease identified in Thurston County

Posted at 12:41 PM, Dec 10, 2021

THURSTON, Neb. (KMTV) — Thurston County is now the fourth known county in Nebraska where there are black-legged tick populations, which are known to cause Lyme disease.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) was recently notified by the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department of two cases of Lyme disease in their jurisdiction.

Both infected people reported likely exposure around the same time at sites near each other in Thurston County. DHHS, the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department and the Winnebago Public Health Department conducted a coordinated environmental investigation at the suspected exposure locations.

According to a press release, Ixodes scapularis, commonly known as the deer tick or black-legged tick, was collected from the sites. Some of the ticks collected were sent to the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Disease and Creighton University for further testing to detect pathogens, including the bacteria responsible for causing Lyme disease.

Ticks submitted came back positive for Borrelia burgdorferi, which indicates the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is circulating in Thurston County's tick population.

These results indicate the first ever detection of this bacteria in Nebraska's black-legged tick populations and the first evidence of Lyme disease cases acquired locally.

Thurston County now joins Douglas, Sarpy and Saunders county as areas in the state with black-legged tick populations.

DHHS will continue working with area health partners on surveillance efforts for black-legged ticks and other ticks that can cause health issues.

See more information from DHHS below.

While tick activity may be slowing down with colder weather, blacklegged ticks can be active year-round. There are simple steps people can take to protect themselves against tick bites.

Prevention steps include:

  • Use an EPA approved insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
  • Treat clothing and gear such as boots, pants, socks, and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin.
  • Dress in long-sleeved shirts, pants, and socks when outside.
  • Do frequent tick checks after being outdoors and remove attached ticks promptly with fine-tipped tweezers. Don't forget to check pets for ticks after being outdoors as well.
  • Shower as soon as possible after being outdoors.

Ticks are generally found near the ground, in brushy or wooded areas. They cannot jump or fly. Instead, they climb grasses or shrubs and wait for you to brush against them. This is called “questing". When this happens, they hang on to you with small claws and then find a spot to attach and take a blood meal.

What to do if you find an attached tick:

  • Remove the attached tick as soon as you notice it by grasping with fine-tipped tweezers, as close to the skin as possible, and pull it straight out. Early removal can minimize and often eliminate the chance of infection. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  • Avoid using nail polish, petroleum jelly, or heat to make the tick detach from the skin. These methods are not effective and may increase the risk of disease transmission.
  • Watch for signs of illness such as rash or fever in the days and weeks following the bite, and see a healthcare provider if these develop. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know you were recently bitten by a tick.

For more information visit the following links:

CDC Ticks Website:

CDC Lyme Disease Website:

CDC Preventing Ticks on Pets Website:

DHHS Press Release, “Blacklegged Tick Identified in Nebraska:

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