Globally, ticks are only second to mosquitoes as carriers of human disease, according to the University College London, and with tick season in full swing, health officials are issuing ways for people everywhere to prepare and protect against the insect and its potentially deadly bite.

Ticks are often found on the edge of wooded areas as well as clearings, long grass and hedgerows and can be found in city parks and gardens as well as undeveloped areas. 

Among the infections commonly transmitted via tick bites in the United States are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) and tularemia, among others.

Though unable to fly or jump, ticks can become an unnoticed stowaway when simply brushed and while often painless, a tick can stay firmly attached for many hours and even days, after which point it releases and drops off. In all, health officials estimate that about half of the people with tick-borne illnesses do not recall having had a tick bite.

To prevent tick-borne illnesses, the Department of Health (DPH) recommends using insect repellent and showering within two hours of coming indoors using a cloth or puff to remove any unattached ticks. 

Frequent examinations of both oneself, children and pets after returning indoors, tucking pant legs into socks and wearing long-sleeved shirts and closed shoes can all help keep a person safe from potentially harmful tick bites. 

For those who enjoy hiking, the DPH recommends staying on the middle of trails and avoiding tall grass and over-grown, brushy areas.

Symptoms of a tick-borne illness include fever and chills, aches and pains and a rash. In Lyme disease, the rash often appears within a month of being bitten and typically before the onset of the fever. And while the rash associated with RMSF varies from person to person in appearance, location and timing, the majority of the time it will appear within two to five days of onset of fever as small, flat, pink and non-itchy spots on the wrists, forearms and ankles before spreading to the trunk. 

For a map of the geographical distribution of tick-borne illnesses in the United States, click here.