The Dangers of Tick-borne Disease in the Carolinas

Author: Mosquito Squad of Wilmington

With famous people in the news talking about their experience with Lyme Disease, the public has become more aware of the symptoms and how the disease is contracted than ever before. Knowledge is important in the fight to prevent Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses. While many tick-borne diseases can be dangerous, the risk for each changes from state to state and region to region.

Knowing all about Lyme Disease is great but it is equally important to know your risk for all tick-borne diseases at your Carolina home. With knowledge of how to prevent tick bites, what symptoms to look for after being exposed to ticks and what treatment to seek for each tick-borne disease we see here in North Carolina and South Carolina you may be able to help save a life.

Lyme Disease in Wilmington NC

You absolutely can contract Lyme Disease on the Carolina coast and it is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. It is however much more prevalent in the Midwest and the Northeast. If you travel to these destinations during summer vacation be extra vigilant.

Transmitted by the black-legged tick, commonly called the deer tick, the symptoms of Lyme Disease can include fever, headache, fatigue and the “bull-eye” rash. Lyme Disease can spread to joints, the nervous system and heart if left untreated – which can sometimes lead to death or long term neurological or arthritic symptoms called chronic Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is treated with antibiotics and can be recovered from fully, especially when caught early.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

It is important to know that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most commonly contracted tick-borne disease in the Carolinas. Transmitted by the American Dog Tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick and brown dog tick, the symptoms can include fever, headache, abdominal pain, muscle pain, vomiting and a rash. Treatment for Rocky Mountain spotted fever is antibiotics and is most effective if it is caught before the 5th day of symptoms. The disease can be fatal if not treated early.

STARI

Southern Tick Related Rash Illness (STARI) is transmitted by the Lone-star tick and can present in a very similar fashion as Lyme Disease. The key difference being the tick that carries it, the lack of arthritis and chronic symptoms and the more rapid recovery when treated with antibiotics. Symptoms can include a “bulls-eye” rash, fatigue, headache, fever and muscle pains. Many times STARI patient will get the rash but no other symptoms.

Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis

Still dangerous, but less common tick-borne diseases found in North Carolina and South Caroline include Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis. The black-legged tick (deer tick) and the western black-legged tick are the carriers of Anaplasmosis. Symptoms can include fever, headache, chills, malaise and muscle aches. Anaplasmosis is treated with at home antibiotics, but severe cases may require hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics and fluids. Anaplasmosis can be deadly if not treated correctly. If a rash presents in Anaplasmosis it is usually a sign of a co-infection with another tick-borne disease such as Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Ehrlichiosis presents similarly to Anaplasmosis but is carried by the lone-star tick. It has similar symptoms and the same treatment but is more deadly as Anaplasmosis has a 1% mortality rate, Ehrlichiosis has a 1.8% mortality rate. While both of these diseases are not extremely common in the Carolinas, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services there were 464 cases between the two from 2008-2012 in North Carolina. Ehrlichiosis being more prevalent because the lone-star tick is more common here.

If you may have been exposed to ticks and notice any of the symptoms described you should call your primary doctor immediately. With all tick-borne illnesses, it is important to seek treatment as soon as you can.