As we move into the summer season, people are spending more and more time outdoors enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. Unfortunately, this means more exposure to ticks and the diseases that they can transmit.

Some common tick-borne diseases to be aware of include:

Anaplasmosis

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS:  Symptoms typically show up within 1 to 2 weeks after a tick bite and include fever, headache, muscle pain, malaise, chills, nausea, abdominal pain, cough, confusion and rash (although this is rare in most people). Anaplasmosis is a severe illness that can be fatal if not treated correctly.

HOW IS IT TREATED:  Antibiotics.

WHICH TICKS CARRY IT:  Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus).

WHERE IS IT FOUND:  Northeastern US, upper Midwest, and the Pacific Coast.

Babesiosis

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS: Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells. Many people do not show any symptoms, while others develop non-specific, flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea and fatigue.

HOW IS IT TREATED: Antibiotics.

WHICH TICKS CARRY IT: Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis).

WHERE IS IT FOUND: Northeastern US and upper Midwest; usually peaks during the warm months.

Ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia chaffeensis & Ehrlichia ewingii)

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS: Symptoms typically develop within 1 to 2 weeks after a tick bite and include fever, headache, chills, malaise, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, red eyes, and rash. This is a serious illness that can be fatal if not treated.

HOW IS IT TREATED:  Antibiotics.

WHICH TICKS CARRY IT:  Lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum).

WHERE IS IT FOUND:  Southeastern and south central US.

Lyme Disease

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS: Lyme disease produces a wide range of symptoms depending on the stage of the infection. Early symptoms appear within 3 to 30 days after a tick bite and include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and a characteristic rash called Erythema migrans which often has a “bulls-eye” appearance. Later symptoms appear months after the tick bite and include severe headaches and neck stiffness, spreading of the rash, arthritis, facial palsy, heart palpitations, nerve pain, and short term memory loss.

HOW IS IT TREATED:  Antibiotics.

WHICH TICKS CARRY IT:  Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus).

WHERE IS IT FOUND:  Northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north Central US and the Pacific coast.

Powassan Disease

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS:  Symptoms appear between 1 week and 1 month after a tick bite. Powassan virus can cause encephalitis and meningitis in the central nervous system. Other symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures. Approximately 10% of cases are fatal. Approximately 1/2 of survivors have permanent neurological symptoms.

HOW IS IT TREATED:  There are currently no vaccines or medications to treat Powassan disease.

WHICH TICKS CARRY IT:  Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), groundhog tick (Ixodes cookei), and squirrel tick (Ixodes marki).

WHERE IS IT FOUND:  Cases have been reported primarily from northeastern states and the Great Lakes region.

Rickettsia parkeri Rickettsiosis

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS:  The first sign of this disease is a dark scab at the site of the tick bite. This usually develops within a few days of the tick bite. Other symptoms include fever, headache, rash, and muscle aches. Infections can range from mild to life-threatening.

HOW IS IT TREATED:  Mild cases can resolve over time with no treatment. Severe cases require treatment with antibiotics.

WHICH TICKS CARRY IT:  Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum).

WHERE IS IT FOUND:  Southeastern US.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS:  Symptoms usually begin within 2 to 14 days after the tick bite. Symptoms usually begin as a sudden onset of fever and headache. Subsequent symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle pain, lack of appetite, red eyes, and a rash (which some people never develop). This rash is usually not seen until after day 6 and presents as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots on the wrists, forearms, and ankles. It then spreads to the truck, palms, and soles. This is a serious disease that can be fatal if not treated correctly within the first 8 days.

HOW IS IT TREATED:  Antibiotics.

WHICH TICKS CARRY IT:  American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus).

WHERE IS IT FOUND:  Throughout the contiguous US with over 60% of cases in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI)

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS:  This disease is often mistaken for Lyme disease. A rash is the predominant symptom with a red, expanding, “bulls-eye” pattern that usually appears within 7 days of a tick bite. Other symptoms include fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle pain.

HOW IS IT TREATED:  Antibiotics.

WHICH TICKS CARRY IT:  Lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum).

WHERE IS IT FOUND:  Southern, central, and eastern US.

Tularemia

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS:  A skin ulcer at the site of the tick bite with swelling of the lymph nodes. This is usually accompanied by a fever. This is a very difficult disease to diagnose.

HOW IS IT TREATED:  Antibiotics.

WHICH TICKS CARRY IT:  American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum).

WHERE IS IT FOUND:  Throughout the US.


How Can You Prevent Ticks?

Now that you know some of the diseases ticks harbor, what can you do to prevent being on the receiving end of one of their bites? We’ve put together a few tips to help you avoid ticks while still enjoying your time outdoors.

  1. Protect Yourself. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and closed-toed shoes when you are outdoors, especially in the woods or tall grass. Wear light-colored clothes as these make ticks easier to spot on your clothes. Use insect repellent when you are outdoors and make sure it contains at least 20% DEET.
  2. Eliminate Their Habitat. Ticks like to hide in tall grass and shrubbery. Make sure to keep your grass cut low and remove weeds, debris, and woodpiles from your yard.
  3. Check Yourself Carefully. It typically takes a tick 24-48 hours before they successfully transmit infections to humans. Check yourself immediately after spending time outdoors. Be thorough when you check – make sure to check creases and wrinkles and even your hair.
  4. Don’t Forget Your Pets. Animals can pick up ticks from being outdoors also. Check your pets frequently, especially after they have been outside. Wash their bedding and toys frequently. Make sure to use tick prevention as directed by your vet, as well.
  5. Remove Ticks Immediately. If you find a tick on yourself, family member, or pet, remove it immediately. Use fine-tipped tweezers and remove it with a slow, steady, pulling motion. Flush the tick down the toilet or wrap it in tissue before disposing of it in a closed receptacle. Wash your hands and the tick bite site thoroughly with soap and water after removal.
  6. Contact The Pros. If you suspect a tick bite seek medical attention. If you suspect you have a tick problem, contact a pest control professional to do a thorough inspection and implement a comprehensive treatment plan.