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Tick-Borne Diseases in St Louis

Between 1992 and 2010, reported cases of Lyme disease doubled, to nearly 23,000, and there were another 7,600 probable cases in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But CDC officials say the true incidence of Lyme may be three times higher. Other infections, including babesiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are steadily increasing, too.

According to Dr. Robert Corley of St. Joseph’s Health Center, “Missouri and Tennessee are the two states that have the highest rates of Ehrlichiosis” another disease carried by ticks. Because people are moving into once rural areas, tick encounters are more common causing the rise of tick borne diseases.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease can infect varying body parts, exhibiting different symptoms at different times. Patients will not necessarily display all symptoms. A key symptom, a circular rash called erythema migrans, is often the first sign of infection, appearing in 70%-80% of cases. The rash initiates at the site of the tick bite approximately 3-30 days after the bite. The rash will gradually expand over several days to as large as 12 inches across. The center may clear as the rash develops, producing a “bull’s eye” effect. Some patients develop additional erythema migrans in other areas after several days. The rash can be warm, but typically isn’t painful.

Other early symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Untreated, the infection may spread after a few days or weeks,
producing additional symptoms:

  • Bell’s palsy, a loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face
  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis
  • Shooting pains
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Pain moving from joint to joint

After several months, symptoms may include:

  • Intermittent bouts of arthritis, with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly in the knees and large joints.
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Problems concentrating
  • Short-term memory loss

More information about Lyme disease can be found at the CDC.


Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks that causes flu-like symptoms. Ehrlichiosis is most common in spring and summer, when ticks are active and you’re more likely to be outdoors. The lone star tick which is prevalent in Missouri is a carrier of the parasite that causes Ehrlichiosis.


  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Confusion
  • Rash

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a tick-borne bacterial disease that affects the cells in the lining of your blood vessels, making the vessels leak. This can eventually cause serious damage to internal organs, particularly your kidneys. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is characterized by a rash that begins as small red spots or blotches on the wrists, ankles, palms or soles of the feet. It spreads up the arms and legs to the trunk of the body. These symptoms take between one and two weeks to appear following a tick bite. Common dog ticks and lone star ticks are the carriers of RMSF.

Symptoms usually develop about 2 to 14 days after the tick bite.
They may include:

  • Chills
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Rash*

*Usually starts a few days after the fever; first appears on wrists and ankles as spots that are 1 – 5 mm in diameter, then spreads to most of the body. About one-third of infected people do not get a rash.

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

  • Diarrhea
  • Light sensitivity
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Thirst
  • Vomiting

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