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Ticks are a hazard to both animals and humans and if you are into camping, hiking or sports that involves a bit on bundu-bashing then you should be aware of how to avoid getting African Tick Bite Fever (ATBF).

ATBF is caused by an infection transmitted through ticks called Rickettsial. This is an organism usually found in cattle and game and ticks acquire these organisms when they feed on these animals. Ticks also transmit this organism to their offspring so the cycle continues.

When a tick bites, the Rickettsial is transmitted in the saliva.  Amblyomma and Rhipicephalus are the two types of ticks that can harbour this organism. The Amblyomma ticks seek out humans to feed on whilst the Rhipicephalus tend to lie in wait in the grass and latch on as you walk past. They look like very small beauty spots on your body but with legs!

Once a tick is on you, they will look for a warm, moist place like an armpit, groin or in the hair to feed. Here they will attach themselves firmly to the skin and begin to draw blood.

Typical symptoms of tick bite fever are the presence of a black mark, called an eschar, where the bite occurred, and fever, severe headache and sometimes a rash that consists of small red marks on the skin, sometimes raised slightly above the surface. You may also notice that your lymph nodes near the eschar may become enlarged.

It is important to remove a tick as soon as possible; this is how:

  • Clean the area with antiseptic solution or soap.
  • Use blunt tweezers or gloved fingers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  • Gently pull the tick straight away from the skin.
  • If the head breaks off, use tweezers to remove it.
  • Flush it down the toilet and wash your hands.
  • Wash the area with antibacterial soap.

DO NOT do the following:

  • Use sharp tweezers
  • Crush, puncture or squeeze the tick’s body
  • Handle ticks with bare hands
  • Make the tick let go by holding a hot match or cigarette close to it!
  • Do not smother the tick with petroleum jelly or nail polish.

African Tick Bite Fever is usually mild, and death and serious complications are usually very uncommon. It is usually treated with an antibiotic, called doxycycline, which can shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the chance of serious side-effects.  There are different types of tick bite fever and being infected by one type may not necessarily render you immune to another type.

Obviously avoiding areas where ticks are likely to occur is difficult especially if you love the outdoors, but there are measures that can be taken. Wearing long trousers and long sleeved shirts and spraying with an insect repellent can drastically reduce the chance of tick bites. Always check yourself carefully when you get home. It is also a good idea to wear light clothing so they are easier to spot if they climb aboard.

So, cover up and use your sprays to avoid those crawling beauty spots getting the better of your outdoor lifestyle!

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These articles are not meant to replace first aid training courses and Micange Trading, and owners thereof, shall not assume liability. It is strongly advised that you qualify for first aid training and revise it every 3 years.

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