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Ticks
Human Health Impact
Human tick-borne diseases are found in almost every state. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that tick-borne disease is on the rise in the U.S., believes that available statistical data vastly underestimate the true incidence of tick-borne disease because only a small fraction of cases are seen or recognized by medical professionals. Blood testing is necessary to accurately diagnose all tick-borne diseases.

The bacteria that cause Lyme Disease, Human Granulocytic Ehrilichioisis and Babesiosis can all be carried by the deer tick. This means that a single bite by this species can potentially transmit more then one of the diseases.

Lyme Disease - The best known, Lyme Disease, is a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. Taking its name from the town of Lyme, Conn., the disease is a chronic debilitating condition that may cause musculo-skeletal, cardiac and central nervous system disorders. A circular rash or skin lesion may be the first sign. The red blotch or circular "bull's eye" pattern may show at three to thirty days after a bite by an infected tick. The rash does not always occur at the bite site and may show at the armpit, groin or back of the knee. Other symptoms include fatigue, neck stiffness, muscle aches and flu-like symptoms such as headaches, chills, fever, dizziness, sore throat, cough and hoarseness. Later stage symptoms may not appear until weeks, months or years after a tick bite and can include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and changes in mood and sleeping habits.

For more information about Lyme Disease visit the American Lyme Disease Foundation.

Rapid reforestation in northeastern states is the main factor in the surge in Lyme Disease over the last 17 years, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation (ALDF). Travel may be the reason that the disease is now reported in almost every state, ALDF suggests. Lyme Disease continues to be a rapidly emerging infectious disease, accounting for more than 90% of all vector-borne illness reported to the U.S. by the CDC. In 1996, the CDC reported 16,455 cases in the U.S. and between 1982 and 1996, more than 99,000 cases.

Treatment is easy and effective if detected early. Antibiotics are administered under a physician's supervision. If undetected, however, a serious long-term disability can result.

Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis - Human Granulocytic Ehrilichiosis, a particularly severe disease transmitted by the deer tick in the same regions as Lyme Disease, have been reported primarily in the South Central and South Atlantic states- particularly in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Georgia. Since 1986 to 1996, the CDC recorded 320 cases.

Symptoms are similar to those of Lyme Disease and include rash, fatigue, neck stiffness, muscle aches and flu-like symptoms such as headaches, chills, fever, dizziness, sore throat, cough, hoarseness and sleep disturbances. Symptoms show about a week after a tick bite.

Treatment generally requires hospitalization and antibiotics administered by a physician to cure the disease and prevent serious complications. Without treatment, it can cause overwhelming infection, toxic shock and death. Death occurs in 5% of cases.

Babesiosis - An emerging disease in the U.S. that is often mistaken for malaria, Babesiosis is transmitted by the deer tick. It can cause serious, even life-threatening illness, and is occasionally fatal.

Most cases occur in New England and New York, but since 1990, cases have been reported in Wisconsin and Minnesota. From 1967 to 1996, the CDC recorded about 450 cases, mostly among older individuals.

Symptoms, which may appear one to three weeks after a bite, include flu-like fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, drenching sweats, general achiness and headache. Illness can range from mild infection to severe hemolytic anemia, renal failure and severe hypertension. Treatment is with antibiotics under a physician's supervision.

Rocky Mountain Spotted fever – Transmitted by many species of ticks, including dog ticks, brown dog ticks and wood ticks (all larger than the deer tick and easier to spot) Rocky Mountain spotted fever is now a misnomer since it occurs in almost every state in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central and South America.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever was first reconfirmed in 1896 in the Snake River Valley of Idaho and was originally called “black measles” because of the characteristic rash. By the early 1900s, the disease spread to parts of the United States as far north as Washington and Montana and as far south as California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

The highest incidence of Rocky Mountain spotted fever is among children five to nine years old. In 1997, 831 cases over all ages were reported to the CDC. In the last three decades, more than 22,000 cases have been recorded.

Symptoms typically include headache, fever, restlessness and loss of appetite. After the third day of infections, a skin rash may show and may spread over the entire body. Some cases may involve nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain. Undiagnosed, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can cause central nervous system disorders, respiratory, kidney, or liver failure and in some cases, death. Treatment includes antibiotics under a physician’s supervision.

For more information about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, please visit Center for Disease Control (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever).

Tularemia - Caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis, Tularemia is normally transmitted to humans by contact with animals (particularly game animals), and by the bites of flies and ticks. If the bacteria enter through a wound on the skin, a skin eruption will slightly appear at the sight of entry. Symptoms most likely include swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills and headache. Pneumonia may also develop.


Animal Health Impact

Tick bites and blood feeding annoy and harm animals, and can even cause them debilitating or fatal illnesses. The tick is the number-one cause of infectious disease in animals.

Anaplasmosis is a blood parasite that invades red blood cells of infected animals. The animal's immune system then begins to attack the red blood cells and the animal eventually suffers acute anemia. It is a disease that, at times, has been disastrous to the cattle industry. Transmission among animals is generally by ticks (Dermacentor andersoni in western North America), but transmission by biting flies, mosquitoes, hypodermic needles, dehorning, castrating and ear tagging can occur. The disease does not affect humans.