Tick-related illnesses: What you need to know

BY MOLLIE S. WATERS

The Greenville Standard

 

Warmer weather in the South means swimming pools, backyard barbeques, and water sports.

Unfortunately, it also means more encounters with ticks because an increase in time spent outdoors means an increase in the possibility of a person coming in contact with these little creepy crawlies.

Ticks do not just suck one’s blood, though. Often, they carry diseases that they transfer to humans.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, “Of the many different tick species found throughout the world, only a select few bite and transmit disease to people. Of the ticks that bite people, different species of ticks transmit different diseases.”

The CDC recommends knowing which ticks are common in a person’s geographic area in order to be aware of what one needs to do if they come in contact with a tick.

Two of the most well-known diseases that ticks in this area carry are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF).

According to the CDC, Lyme is carried by several tick species in the US, including the black-legged tick. RMSF is carried by the American dog tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick.

The CDC says that if a person is bitten by a tick, that person should stay alert for the symptoms of the aforementioned illnesses.

According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service (ACES), ticks commonly found in Alabama include: Lone star tick, black-legged tick, American dog tick, brown dog tick, and Gulf Coast tick.

The most tell-tale sign for Lyme disease is a bullseye pattern reaction where the tick bit the person. However, not everyone who later tests positive for Lyme has the bullseye, but it is fairly common.

“This rash occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite,” states the CDC.

Other symptoms for both diseases include fever/chills, aches/pains, and rash. Regrettably, the symptoms are very typical of other illnesses, which is why tick-related illnesses are often called “great imitators.”

If a person suspects he/she has one of the illnesses above after having had a tick encounter, the individual should immediately see a healthcare provider in order to be tested. The test is done through the blood.

“The results of these tests can take weeks,” states the CDC website. “If your healthcare provider thinks your illness might be RMSF, he or she should recommend antibiotic treatment before test results are available.”

If the person does test positive for Lyme or RMSF, the most common treatment for them is a round of antibiotics.

“People treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely,” says the CDC. “Antibiotics commonly used for oral treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil.

“People with certain neurological or cardiac forms of illness may require intravenous treatment with antibiotics such as ceftriaxone or penicillin.”

The CDC says the best form of treatment for Lyme and RMSF is prevention.

The Mayo Clinic website suggests several tips for preventing getting tick-related illnesses.

“The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid areas where deer ticks live, especially wooded, bushy areas with long grass,” states the Mayo Clinic website. “You can decrease your risk of getting Lyme disease with some simple precautions: Cover up. Use insect repellant. Do your best to tick-proof your yard. Check your clothing, yourself, your children and your pets for ticks. Don’t assume you’re immune. Remove a tick as soon as possible with tweezers.”

To properly remove and dispose of a tick, grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can get with sterile tweezers or a tick tool and pull upward on the tick with a steady, even tug. After the tick is removed, wash and disinfect the area on the skin where the tick was attached. Wash your hands.

To learn more about Lyme disease and RMSF, visit https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20374651, and https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/.

Another resource is a flyer from ACES. Visit https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/assets/aces_tickborne_disease_flyer.pdf.

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