With the changing of the weather to more spring like temperatures, we are also moving into the season, late spring and summer, where ticks are most likely to transmit diseases. In this blog post, we will try to answer four of the most common questions that we are asked concerning ticks and the diseases they transmit.
How does a tick transmit disease?
Ticks transmit disease when they are feeding on their host. Ticks secrete an anesthesia like substance onto the skin, which prevents the person from knowing they are being bitten. The tick then inserts a feeding tube into the skin and also secretes cement like substance that allows it to remain attached to the person while it is feeding. The tick will feed on the blood of a person for several days and eventually fall off. During the feeding process, ticks which are carrying disease transmit disease via its saliva and though the feeding tube. One good thing about ticks is that they are not very efficient at transmitting disease compared to mosquitoes. Most ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit disease.
How do I remove a tick if I am bitten?
According to the CDC , these are the steps to remove a tick.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach. (http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html)
How do I know what ticks cause what sickness?
There are a myriad of tick borne diseases. We are going to highlight the most common in the United States. This link includes a great reference for maps showing where certain ticks are found as well as a picture of the ticks.
Lyme Disease –Black Legged Tick aka Deer Tick
Southern tick associated rash illness (STARI) – Lone Star Tick
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever – Brown dog tick, American dog tick, and Rocky Mountain wood tick
What are the symptoms that I should be concerned about if I am bitten by a tick?
- Fever/chills: With all tickborne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
- Aches and pains: Tickborne disease symptoms include headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. With Lyme disease you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.
- Rash: The rash can vary according to what disease process is causing it.
What does the rash look like?
In lyme disease the rash may appear within 3-30 days, typically before the onset of fever. The rash of Lyme Disease is the first sign of infection and is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans, which initially occurs at the site of the tick bite in 70-80% of those infected. This rash can develop in other areas of the body several days after being bitten. Characteristically, it is warm, but is not usually painful.
The rash of southern tick associated rash illness is very similar to that of Lyme disease, with a red, expanding “bulls eye” lesion that develops around the site of a lone star tick bite. Unlike Lyme disease, STARI has not been linked to any arthritic or neurologic symptoms.
The rash seen with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is not consistent from person to person. It can vary from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset. There are also people who will not develop a rash at all. The CDC explains that the most common presentation of the rash begins 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. The red to purple rash that is most commonly associated with RMSF, is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and is found in only 35-60% of patients with the infection.
To learn more, please visit the following references online.
For information on tick borne illness in West Virginia.
FUTURE BLOG POSTS…. We will discuss mosquito borne illness and insect repellents.
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This post was written by Aaron Santmyire, APRN-BC, DNP