The Dangers of Ticks
Protect Your Family & Pets from Lyme
Like mosquitoes, ticks are transmitters of disease. Tick-borne disease is extremely dangerous because they affect tens of thousands of people throughout the United States every year. Unlike mosquitoes, ticks do not grab a blood meal and go on their way. Ticks have beak-like projections that plunge into the skin of their host. Depending on its type, a tick may feed on the host’s blood for hours, days, or even weeks. Tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, and tularemia. If you find a tick on you, please follow this guide from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and remove it promptly.
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Quick Facts About Ticks
- Ticks are classified as parasites since they all feed on the blood of host animals.
- There are hundreds of tick species, but only a handful transmits disease to humans.
- The ticks of greatest concern in the U.S. are the blackegged tick (also known as the deer tick in the eastern U.S.), the Lone Star tick, and the dog tick.
- Ticks do not jump or fly. Typically, they transfer to hosts by waiting on tall grass and crawling aboard.
- Ticks can be active when the ground temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Ticks that endanger humans also choose deer hosts and are usually prevalent wherever deer are found.
- Tick bites often go undetected because they do not hurt or itch.
- Ticks that enter your home can live there for long periods.
Named after the Connecticut town in which it was first found, Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in the United States, with diagnoses in every state except Hawaii. There are nearly 30,000 cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control each year. If caught early, Lyme disease responds well to a variety of antibiotics. Unfortunately, Lyme is not the easiest disease to diagnose. The telltale bull’s eye rash is only one of the many symptoms of Lyme, which also includes fever, fatigue and joint pain.
Although it does affect humans, ehrlichiosis is most commonly found in deer and dogs. The bacteria kills white blood cells causing headaches, fatigue, and aches. Luckily, ehrlichiosis is treated with a series of antibiotics.
Babesiosis is transmitted by the bite of infected Ixodes scapularis ticks and is most common in the Northeast and upper Midwest regions of the United States. For most people, there are no symptoms. For those who do experience symptoms, there are effective treatment options available.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a potentially fatal bacterial disease resulting in symptoms such as fever, headache, rash, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, muscle pain, and lack of appetite. It is spread by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and brown dog tick. It is most commonly found in North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. RMSF can be treated with antibiotics.
Anaplasmosis is most commonly spread by the bite of the blacklegged and the western blacklegged tick. Symptoms of the disease can include fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches and will usually begin within one to two weeks of the initial bite. Early treatment with the antibiotic doxycycline can help prevent severe illness—including respiratory failure, bleeding problems, and organ failure—as well as death.
Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness
The southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) can often be confused with Lyme disease as both result in a similar circular rash that looks like a bull’s-eye. STARI is spread by the bite of the lone star tick. In addition to the rash, STARI can result in symptoms such as fatigue, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain. Treatment is still being researched but most physicians use oral antibiotics to treat patients.
Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever
Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF) is a bacterial infection spread by the bite of a “soft tick.” It can result in recurring symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and nausea. It is most common in the western region of the United States, especially mountainous areas. In Texas, exposure can happen in caves.
Tularemia is a disease that can affect both people and animals, including rabbits, hares, and rodents. It can be spread by the the bite of ticks, as well as contact with infected animals, contaminated water, and more. Symptoms can vary widely depending on the form of infection; when infected through a tick bite, symptoms can include irritation, inflammation, skin ulcers, and the swelling of lymph glands. This can be treated with antibiotics; treatment will usually last between 10 to 21 days on average.