OKLAHOMA CITY - After two city employees were infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, experts are warning others to take precautions.
Two part-time Parks and Recreation Department employees reported having the tick-borne illness. City officials said they've been treated and are back to work. Now, the natural resources manager for the department said it will get worse before it gets better.
"There is a tick problem all over the place right now," Scott Copelin said. "Part of the problem this year is we didn't have a long enough, cold enough winter, so that's a big problem."
The bacterial illness is not uncommon in the United States, and especially not in Oklahoma.
"Oklahoma has one of the highest incidences of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in the country," said Oklahoma City County Epidemiologist Ozair Navqi. "It's our big claim to fame here when it comes to tick-borne illnesses."
Symptoms include fever, rash, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, muscle aches, and fatigue. Navqi warns to stay out of dense vegetation and at the center of a path you may be on in a park.
"They like to hang around the grassy areas on the edge of trails, or hanging off of trees, and wait for you to come to them," Navqi said.
Pets and livestock are also at risk, and removing ticks can put you at risk.
"You don't want to squeeze and burst a tick close to a break in the skin, and have tick fluid mix with your fluid because then that can be a possible exposure to a tick-borne illness," Navqi said. He said you should use tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is treatable with antibiotics.
If you experience symptoms within two weeks of getting a tick bite, you're encouraged to contact your doctor.