Douglas County Health Department tests for ticks at Lake Zorinsky

Douglas County Health is trying something new -- collecting ticks.
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 4:15 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Health experts are on high alert for ticks that may carry disease. In fact, the Douglas County Health Department did its first-ever tick drag at Lake Zorinsky.

It’s a process of collecting ticks to be identified and tested.

Health experts say it’s important to collect this information, so the medical community and the public are aware.

Emily Guardado of Omaha likes to go to Zorinksy Lake regularly with her friends and kids.

“We work out while our kids play and then we go for a walk,” she said.

Guardado says they always check for ticks when they get back home.

“We change our clothes, and we check all over,” she said.

Douglas County’s Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse says she is right to be concerned. Huse says due to changing weather patterns, different kinds of ticks are migrating to Nebraska and surviving.

“Our climate really has changed,” Huse said. “We’ve become warmer, we’ve had a lot more very warm and humid days. As the climate warms, we’re hotter here than we used to be, you’re going to see kind of an influx in insects and other critters that like that particular environment.”

With the warmer weather here, Douglas County Health is trying something new: tick drags at Omaha lakes and parks.

So for the first time ever, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has tasked the Douglas County Health Department to do tick drags -- those involve dragging a flag across patches of high grass and catching ticks that latch onto the fabric.

The ticks are then sent to the state health lab to identify and test for any diseases they might be carrying. That includes the black-legged tick which carries Lyme disease. A population of black-legged ticks was detected for the first time in Nebraska in 2019.

Lyme disease usually causes symptoms such as a rash, fever, and fatigue. If not treated early, the symptoms could become serious.

“If we do have ticks that are carrying certain diseases in the area, that’s a risk people need to understand and know about,” Huse said.

Guardado takes the message to heart.

“Growing up, my mom and dad always taught us if you’re going to be in the tall grass and the trees you definitely need to keep checking for ticks,” she said.

The Douglas County Health Department also performed a tick drag at Hummel Park in North Omaha.