When we think of ticks and the diseases they spread, we typically think of Lyme disease. But, did you know that the nasty little critters also spread ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis?
The former is more common in the southeastern and south central United States while the latter is caused by the same tick that spreads Lyme disease, in the country’s Northeast, mid-Atlantic, upper Midwest and West Coast regions.
In fact, a bite from a tick infected with both Lyme and anaplasmosis can infect a person with both diseases, according to merkmanuals.com.
What ticks are – and aren’t
Ticks are small arachnids (related to spiders and scorpions), so they aren’t insects or “bugs.” They are also parasitic, meaning they live off the blood of birds, mammals and even reptiles.
Most varieties of ticks live in grassy or wooded areas. The deer tick (which spreads Lyme disease) thrives in “shady, moist areas at ground level … no more than 18 to 24 inches off the ground, according to New York State Department of Health.
Deer ticks are also frequently found on our pets, especially in regions with high humidity, with the exception of Hawaii. Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania are the five states with the highest incidence of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease – in a nutshell
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is carried by the deer tick. It may take from 3 to 30 days after a bite from an infected tick for symptoms to occur, according to webmd.com.
These symptoms typically (but not always) include a rash, fever, headache, chills and other flu-like symptoms.
These symptoms comprise the first of three stages of Lyme disease. The second stage is known as “early disseminate Lyme” and symptoms include weakness and/or pain in the arms and legs, heart palpitations, chest pain and even facial paralysis.
The third stage of Lyme disease may occur “weeks, months or years after the tick bite,” according to webmd.com. Symptoms of late-stage Lyme include severe fatigue, vertigo, mental confusion and arthritis.
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics and around 10 percent of patients don’t shake the symptoms even after treatment. See the Centers for Disease Control’s website for additional information on symptoms.
Preventing tick bites
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests using a repellant on your skin and clothing to ward off ticks. Use the tool on the agency’s website to choose the repellent that fits your needs.
The CDC recommends that you check your body (and your children’s and pet’s) for ticks after spending time outdoors. If you find a tick, use tweezers to remove it.
Place the tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull upward on the tick. Wash the bite area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
Learn more about how to remove ticks on the CDC’s website. After removal, the CDC recommends monitoring your family for symptoms of Lyme disease.