According to the CDC, Massachusetts ranks 4th in the nation for instances of Lyme disease. That makes it evident that ticks are a problem here. However, are you aware of the fact that Lyme isn’t the only disease ticks can carry? With six other tick-borne illnesses posing possible threats in our area, it is important to have the information available on each in the case of a tick bite. The CDC is an invaluable resource for information about tick-borne illnesses. Let us share some of that information with you.
Just like Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis is also caused by the bite of an infected deer tick, a common tick in Massachusetts. Symptoms will include some but not all of the following: fever, headache, muscle pain, malaise, chills, nausea or abdominal pain, cough, and confusion. Rashes are rare with this illness. When caught quickly, Anaplasmosis will be treated with an antibiotic which should lead to complete recovery. However if not treated, 1% of those that contract this disease will lose their lives. In its most severe cases difficulty breathing, hemorrhaging, and renal failure are possibilities. Those with compromised immunity can be even more prone to the severe reaction, and the fatality rate could be higher.
Babesiosis is yet another illness caused by the deer tick (black-legged tick) that roams the northeast and upper midwest. In 2014, there were 537 reported cases of Babesiosis in Massachusetts. That’s more than any other state in the US. Those infected with Babesiosis may not feel any symptoms, but if they do they are mostly flu-like. However, this too can lead to something much more serious, especially in those with a weak immune system, the elderly, anyone without a spleen, or anyone with serious health conditions including liver or kidney disease. The parasites that cause Babesiosis infect and destroy red blood cells and in severe cases can cause anemia, low platelet count, unstable blood pressure, malfunction of vital organs, and death. Most mild cases will be treated with an antibiotic. Between 2011 and 2014 the rate of instances of Babesiosis in Massachusetts has been on a constant rise.
With Lone Star ticks on the rise in Massachusetts, we add even more disease to our list of concerns. Ehrlichiosis is one of the diseases transmitted by Lone Star ticks. If not treated the fatality rate is 1.8% even in previously healthy people, however with early treatment a full quick recovery is likely. Symptoms can include a combination of the following: fever, headache, chills, malaise, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, conjunctivitis (pinkeye), and rash (although the instance of rash is much less in adults).
Powassan virus is another disease transmitted by the deer tick but can be considerably more dangerous due to the fact that it only takes 15 minutes for the disease to be transmitted from the tick to the human and because there is no treatment for this particular illness. The only treatment available is for symptom relief. Symptoms of mild cases are similar to the flu-like symptoms most tick-borne illnesses cause. Powassan can infect the central nervous system and cause encephalitis and meningitis. 10% of these cases are fatal. Of the 9 states reporting cases of Powassan between 2006 and 2015, Massachusetts ranked 4th with 8 reported cases.
In 2010, the CDC reports no cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) in Massachusetts. In fact, 60% of cases in the US come from North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri, but at some point, cases have been reported throughout the United States so there is still a threat here. RMSF is transmitted by a bacterium through the American dog tick. Treatment with an antibiotic should begin if RMSF is suspected because this disease can be fatal very early on. Most will develop a telltale red to purple spotted rash, but sometimes not until the 6th day. Until then the symptoms will include a minor rash, fever, lack of appetite, muscle pain, red eyes, headache, nausea, and vomiting. RMSF can cause damage to the blood vessels, bleeding, and clotting. Damage to vital organs and extremities is possible.
Reported cases of Tularemia have actually diminished in Massachusetts over the last 10 years. Transmitted from the dog tick and the lone star tick, the statistics from the CDC show this to be more prevalent in the midwestern states. Symptoms of Tularemia are similar to common illnesses and are hard to diagnose. Ulcers on the skin or swelling of the lymph glands may occur. Tularemia will be treated with antibiotics.
Knowledge is key in the treatment of tick-borne illnesses. If you find yourself removing a tick, it makes good sense to make a note of the date and call your healthcare provider as symptoms begin to occur. Professional testing is the best way to diagnose any tick-borne disease.
However, it can’t be said enough that the best prevention of tick-borne disease is the prevention of tick bites. Everyone can do their part by following the 6Cs of tick proofing your yard. This is the first step to protection from these tiny, yet dangerous pests. What is the second step? Calling Mosquito Squad of the South Shore. Our barrier treatments and tick tubing systems can eliminate 85-90% of ticks in your yard today, as well as preventing the growth of nymphal ticks morphing into adulthood. We look forward to hearing from you and being a part of keeping your outdoor spaces a safe place to live and enjoy. 508-536-4855