Tick Borne Illnesses

Tick Identification key

What You Need to Know

Tickborne diseases in Montana
Disease/causal organism Incidence in Montana Symptoms Tick vectors
Rocky Mountain spotted fever/rickettsiosis
(a bacterium,
Rickettsia rickettsii)
Rare, much more common in some areas along the Atlantic coast. About 8 cases per year, on average, are reported in Montana. Initially, a general feeling of malaise and/or aches. A characteristic rash develops, starting on the wrists and ankles and later spreading to the rest of the body, including palms and the soles of feet. High fever is associated with infections. Rocky Mountain wood tick, American dog tick.
(a bacterium,
Rare; only 5 cases on average are reported in Montana. Can be widespread in wild animals, particularly rabbits. Sudden high fever, general weakness and swelling/pain of the lymph nodes. Rocky Mountain wood tick, American dog tick. Most human infections occur from contact with the blood of infected animals (e.g., while skinning rabbits).
Colorado tick fever/biphasic fever
(a virus)
Rare; only 4 cases, on average, are reported in Montana. Generally flu-like, including aching, fever, chills and fatigue. This typically lasts for 1 to 3 days. More severe complications sometimes develop. Rocky Mountain wood tick, American dog tick.
Tick-borne relapsing fever/borreliosis
(a bacterium,
Borrelia hermsii)
Very rare. Rapidly developing fever 3 to 10 days after initial infection. Fever declines after about 4 days but may recur in multiple cycles. Soft ticks of the genus       Ornithodoros    that are associated with rodents (e.g., chipmunks, pine squirrels). Human infections typically occur when camping in rustic cabins inhabited by infected rodents.
Lyme disease       (a bacterium,       Borrelia burgdorferi) Most common tickborne illness in Montana residents even though all cases acquired disease out of state. Thirteen cases on average.  Most US cases are from the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and north-central US.  Symptoms that occur 3 – 30 days after tick bite include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches. Rash occurs in 70% - 80% of infected cases. It is 12 inches or more and may be located on any area of the body. Later signs and symptoms severe headaches and neck stiffness, arthritis with joint swelling, and facial or Bell ’s palsy. Blacklegged tick or deer tick. Not found in Montana. Most people infected by immature ticks that are less than 2mm in size.

Updated 05/01/2024

  • Wear an EPA registered insect repellent
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin 
  • Check for ticks often
  • Shower soon after being out doors 
  • Put clothing in the dryer for 10 minutes after being outdoors to kill ticks


  • Check your clothing and body for ticks after being outdoors

The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses include:

Your healthcare provider should evaluate the following before deciding on a plan for treatment:

  • Your symptoms,
  • the geographic region where you were bitten, and
  • lab tests, depending on the symptoms and the geographic region where you were bitten.


what to do after removing a tick

  1. Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by
    • Putting it in alcohol,
    • Placing it in a sealed bag/container,
    • Wrapping it tightly in tape, or
    • Flushing it down the toilet.

how to remove a tick

Healthcare Professionals Information