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Ticks carry diseases that can be passed on to humans.  Organisms that carry viruses and diseases are known as vectors.  They present a clear and present danger to people, pets, and wildlife as well. Diseases that pass from animals to humans are called zoonotic infections.  Ticks pass on quite a few to people, and one of the most notorious tick vectors is the blacklegged tick.  Here are the most common diseases ticks can pass to other creatures, including humans.

Anaplasmosis

This disease is passed on to humans from the western blacklegged tick along the Pacific Coast. Anaplasmosis is a disease caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. These bacteria are spread to people by tick bites primarily from the blacklegged tick and the western blacklegged tick. People with anaplasmosis will often have fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches.

Babesiosis

This is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red-blood cells. Babesiosis is sometimes fatal, especially in the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and those who have had their spleens removed.

Lyme Disease

Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks.  Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick borne diseases as well.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)

This diseased is transmitted by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick and the brown dog tick. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a potentially fatal disease that’s usually caused by the bite of a tick infected with rickettsia group bacteria. Symptoms include fever, headache, and muscle aches. A rash may be present, frequently with blackened or crusted skin at the site of a tick bite. Spotted fever responds well to prompt treatment with antibiotics.

Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF)

This disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected soft ticks.  It has been reported in 15 states, including Oregon, and is associated with sleeping in rustic cabins and vacation homes. It is a bacterial infection spread by ticks. The infection normally shows up as repeated episodes of fever, along with headache, muscle and joint aches, and nausea. It occurs in the western United States.

Tularemia

This a disease common to rodents but can be transmitted to humans through tick and deer fly bites.  Tularemia has many ways it attacks the body.  The most common is Ulceroglandular. This is the most common form of tularemia and usually occurs following a tick or deer fly bite or after handing of an infected animal. A skin ulcer appears at the site where the bacteria entered the body. The ulcer is accompanied by swelling of regional lymph glands, usually in the armpit or groin. The next most common is Glandular, similar to ulceroglandular tularemia but without an ulcer. Also generally acquired through the bite of an infected tick or deer fly or from handling sick or dead animals. Any form of Tularemia can become Pneumonic.  This is the most serious form of tularemia. Symptoms include cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. This form results from breathing dusts or aerosols containing the organism. It can also occur when other forms of tularemia (e.g. ulceroglandular) are left untreated and the bacteria spread through the bloodstream to the lungs.

There are other tick-borne diseases in other areas, but these are the most common in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.  Experts predict Summer of 2021 will be a tick time bomb, due to a mild winter for most parts of the country and hot and humid conditions. Ticks thrive in humidity, and regions that experience wetter and warmer winters foster a higher tick population.  The best offense against ticks and potential tick-borne illnesses is prevention.  If you are concerned about tick-borne illnesses, a good first step in prevention around your home would be professional pest control services. Give All-Natural Pest Elimination a call. We are here to help keep you your family and your pets safe, so give us a call today at 1-877-662-8449.