Everything You Need to Know About Ticks and Their Diseases

Everything You Need to Know About Ticks and Their Diseases

GREENSBORO, NC – The word tick seems to be on a lot of people’s minds right now. It could because of the uptick in Lyme Disease, concerns about Powassan disease and the recent video showing a young girl suddenly paralyzed after receiving a tick bite.

We wanted to know, are there more ticks this year than normal? What types are in our area and what diseases do they carry? How can you check for ticks and finally, how do you get rid of them?

READ: Tick Bite Leaves Girl Paralyzed

More ticks?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2017 will be a bad year for ticks. A mild winter combined with a moist spring is leaving scientists concerned this might be the worst year for tick bites.

Dr. Janine Oliver, Veterinarian at Benessere Animal Hospital and Happy Tails Emergency Hospital said she’s pulling more ticks off animals than she has in recent years.

“In my personal and professional life, I’m seeing a lot more ticks. I live close to downtown and I’m seeing a lot ticks in my backyard that I don’t normally see,” Dr. Oliver explained. “My family is finding ticks on them and we use tick prevention.”

I don’t have animals, why should I worry about ticks?

Even without a dog or cat, ticks can still find you.

Dr. Oliver said, “Your neighbors might have animals. Also, there are wild animals, lizard, birds, squirrels. Ticks feed on frogs, lizards, whatever they can find in the environment.”

Also, high grass is a hot spot for ticks. So, if you’re hunting, wear long sleeves and pants tucked into shoes. If the high grass is in your yard, you might want to grab the lawnmower.

How do I check for ticks?

Check for ticks in and around your hair, in and around the ears, inside the belly button and under the arms. Other prime spots for ticks are between the legs and the back of knees. Ticks are relatively small, but do become engorged once filled with blood, making them somewhat easier to spot.

How do I get rid of ticks?

Use insect repellents containing 20% to 30% DEET and wear long pants, long sleeves, and long socks to keep ticks off your skin when hunting. Don’t drink untreated surface water. Shower after returning from the outdoors, especially If you were in high grass or around animals.

Treat clothing with the insecticide, permethrin.

Never try to burn a tick off or use petroleum jelly or fingernail polish. The best way to remove a tick is with tweezers or a tissue and gently pull up.

“You don’t want to jerk it off. Because if you just jerk it off, you’ll leave part of the mouth and you also may squeeze the tick and squeeze more stuff out of it. It’s really gross and no one wants to think about it,” said Dr. Oliver.

Types of ticks in North Carolina*

*Information provided by the CDC

There are five types of ticks indigenous to the east and North Carolina. The American Dog Tick, the Blacklegged Tick, the Brown Dog Tick, the Lone Star Tick and the Gulf Coast Tick.

The American Dog Tick* presents the highest risk of being bitten during the spring and summer.  This type of tick carries two diseases, Tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Tularemia can be life-threatening but most infections can be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms include a high fever, dry cough, headaches, chills and ulcers. In 2015, Tularemia was reported in all states except Hawaii but was most common in south central US.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is potentially fatal, if not treated in the first few days of symptoms. Symptoms typically become present in the first two weeks after a tick bite and include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle pain and a possible rash. The highest incidence rates, ranging from 19 to 63 cases per million persons were found in Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

The Blacklegged Tick presents the highest risk of being bitten all year. While a bite is not typical in the winter, ticks will search for a host when the winter temperatures are above freezing. This type of tick transmits four diseases; Lyme, anaplasmosis, basesiosis and Powassan disease.

Lyme Disease, if left untreated, can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, migraines and fatigue. Most cases can be treated with antibiotics. The CDC said 95% of confirmed Lyme disease cases in 2015 came from 14 states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. There was a total of 28,453 confirmed cases in the U.S. in 2015, the CDC said. But, studies suggest that about 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year.

Anaplasmosis symptoms typically show up one to two weeks after a bite. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and chills and is typically treated with antibiotics. A little less than 2,000 cases were reported in 2010.

Basesiosis is typically asymptomatic, however, some people may have flu-like symptoms.  The infection is usually diagnosed by a blood examination.

Powassan disease is rare in the United states. Per the CDC, 75 cases have been reported in the last 10 years. Symptoms of infection can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. There is no specific treatment, but people diagnosed as often need to be hospitalized.

The Brown Dog Tick is typically found on dogs. This tick is present in every state in America and carries Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

The Gulf Coast Tick is found in the eastern part of North Carolina. Larvae and nymphs feed on birds and rodents, while adult ticks feed on other wildlife. The tick carries a from of spotted fever, called Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis.

The Lone Star Tick is the most aggressive breed that bites humans. Lone star tick saliva can be irritating; redness and discomfort at a bite site does not necessarily indicate an infection. This tick carries tularemia and STARI.

STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) is a rash similar to the rash of Lyme Disease. The rash accompanied by fatigue, fever, headache, muscle and joint pains. It is not known whether antibiotic treatment is necessary but because STARI resembles early Lyme disease, patients are often given antibiotics.

Tick Paralysis* is caused by over 40 species of ticks worldwide. The two ticks most commonly associated with tick paralysis in America are the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick and the American Dog Tick. Tick paralysis is commonly found in domestic animals and livestock. Human cases are rare and usually occur in children under the age of 10. Symptoms of tick paralysis generally begin from five to seven days after a tick becomes attached (usually on the scalp), beginning with fatigue, numbness of the legs and muscle pains. Paralysis rapidly develops from the lower to the upper extremities. The most severe complications may include convulsions, respiratory failure and, in up to 12% of untreated cases, death.

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