Tick-Borne Illness on the RiseBy Dr. Jim Fredericks
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Tips To Protect Yourself and Your Family
Most people are
aware that ticks
spread Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that causes flu-like
symptoms, however in recent years, a number of other tick-borne
diseases have become more prevalent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), in the past 10 years in the U.S., the top five reported
tick-borne diseases are:
- Lyme disease (about 35,000 reported cases yearly)
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) (about 2,500 cases reported
- Ehrlichiosis (about 1,000 cases per year)
- Anaplasmosis (about 1,000 cases per year each)
- Babesiosis (about 250 cases reported yearly)
Experts attribute the rise in these illnesses to an increase in
recent survey of consumers by the National Pest Management
Association (NPMA) found that 44 percent of respondents have or
know someone who has been bitten by a tick. Of those , the majority
lives in the Northeast region of the country (54 percent); followed
by those from the Midwest (49 percent), in the South (46 percent)
and lastly those from the West (28 percent).
While a tick bite does not always result in an illness,
considering the prevalence and rise in tick-borne illnesses, it is
important the public take steps to protect themselves and their
families before, during and after spending time in a tick habitat,
such as the woods or areas with tall grass. Even though tick season
typically takes place from May to September, people should practice
preventative measures year-round and in all regions of the country
as different species of ticks are found across the U.S.
The NPMA suggests the following tick-prevention techniques:
- Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes when
outdoors, especially in wooded areas or tall grasses. Choose light
colored clothing that makes it easier to spot ticks and other
- Wear a bug spray containing at least 20% DEET when outdoors,
and reapply as directed on the label.
- When hiking, stay in the center of trails, away from
- Take steps to keep your own yard tick-free. Keep grass cut low
and remove weeds, woodpiles and debris, which can attract ticks and
- Be on the lookout for signs of tick bites, such as a telltale
red bull's eye rash around a bite. If you suspect a tick has bitten
you, seek medical attention.
- Learn the symptoms of the most common tick-borne illnesses and
consult with your doctor immediately if you believe you are ill
following a tick bite.
The NPMA survey found that while 72 percent of consumers use
precautions to protect themselves and their family members from
ticks, the majority of those who have removed a tick from
themselves, another person or an animal use improper removal
Despite a number of myths, like the use of oil, petroleum jelly
or even gasoline to kill the tick; or the use of heat from an
extinguished match to force the tick to detach, the best and safest
way to remove a tick is to use fine-tipped tweezers, grab the tick
close to the skin’s surface and pull upward with even pressure.
Beware of using twisting or jerking motions as this can cause the
tick’s mouthparts to break off in the skin.
Avoid squashing the tick because spreading tick blood in the
bite wound might increase the risk of infection. Once the tick is
removed, clean the area with soap and water. If you develop a rash,
headaches, pains or fever, call your doctor immediately.
As ticks typically require hours of feeding before they can
successfully transmit infections, prompt and proper tick removal is
a crucial step in decreasing the threat of being infected with a
tick-borne illness. To learn more about ticks and Lyme disease,