Tick, Tick, Make You Sick

A tick like this one, seen at 10x magnification, can spread a number of dangerous pathogens during the warm-weather months. (Photo by Cornel Constantin)

Health Editor’s Note:  Ticks are a very real concern for everyone who visits the outdoors, including animals.  Whenever you have been outdoors remove your clothing in an area where you can contain any ticks that might fall off of your clothing, check your scalp (all of it), behind your ears, backs of knees, around waist line area, all over to make sure you have not received a passenger. Prevention is definitely the best treatment for any of these tick-born diseases.  Wearing long sleeves, long pants (I know it is hot, but worth cutting the risk) whenever hiking, working, playing in locations of tall grassy, wooded, leafy and brushy areas. You can certainly meet up with ticks in your own yard.  Also, they can fall from trees and land on you. 

You can wear a repellent that works on ticks, but it is hard to get the repellent onto all areas of the body. Use EPA registered insect repellents. But repellents cannot be used on the very young. There is even a method for putting repellent into clothing.

If you have found a tick, and it is not attached, pick it up with a kleenex or cloth, never with your bare fingers and get rid of it with whatever method you want to use without touching. Ticks can ride in on back packs, coats, gear, clothing, fur of animals, etc. 

There are various ways to remove a tick if it is already attached.  I have removed ticks in the past from dogs by taking a tissue and firmly grasping the tick by the closest part that is attached to the dog…I guess the head. They (others) recommend using tweezers but I think it is more effective to grab with finger tips (with tissue, rubber gloves if you have them, just do not touch.) You can grasp all the head and body and pull.  If you have successfully gotten the tick off there will be some body tissue in the tick’s mouth. I imagine this means that the head and jaws are removed as well as a bit of body (whoever it is attached to) tissue, but no more portion of the tick should remain within the skin.

I have had the brain storm that maybe if the tick was attached, it should be placed into a container and taken somewhere to be identified or perhaps tested. Do not take a tick bite lightly.  At the very least thoroughly cleanse the area where the tick was attached with soap, water, perhaps alcohol, antiseptic, etc.   

Taking a shower after removing and checking clothing would also be a good idea….lots of soap and searching for any ticks.  Use a mirror if necessary if there is not someone available to help search. 

Due to the various serious illnesses ticks can cause, it is worth any extra time and effort to keep ticks away and to be proactive if you find one……Carol

Tick Facts: Dangers at the height of tick season

by Military Health System

From April to September, tick activity spikes throughout the United States. With high tick activity comes the importance of increasing awareness of common tick-borne illnesses and how to prevent them.

According to Army Maj. Elizabeth Wanja, of the Uniformed Services University for Health Sciences, outdoor activities during peak tick season raise the chances of transmitting pathogens from living organisms that can carry diseases. These organisms include mosquitos, fleas and, you guessed it, ticks.

“Outdoor activities like farming, camping, and military training exercises in grasslands or edges of the forest increase chances of these pathogens’ transmission,” Wanja said.

Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 77 percent of all insect-borne diseases are carried by ticks. Lyme disease, transmitted through bites from deer ticks, remains the most common of these diseases. However, Lyme is not the only disease to be aware of. Here are five other tick-borne pathogens to be aware of:

Ehrlichiosis, which commonly occurs in the Southeast, South Central, and Midwest U.S., is transmitted to humans primarily by a bite of an infected lone star tick, which is native to this region. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscles aches, and the occasional upset stomach. Ehrlichiosis can be treated in adults and children with the antibiotic Doxycycline.

Anaplasmosis occurs in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, upper Midwest and West Coast of the U.S. and is transmitted through a bite of the blacklegged tick and the western blacklegged tick. Anaplasmosis has the same symptoms and treatment as ehrlichiosis – the main difference being the tick that carries the disease.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by infection from a bacterial organism. It is transmitted by a bite of an infected American dog tick, brown dog tick, and the Rocky Mountain wood tick. This is commonly reported in the Southeast U.S. This infection causes high fever, headache, and rash, and can be deadly if not treated with Doxycycline.

Powassan virus is a rare, tick-borne flavivirus that can have severe effects on the human nervous system. The deer tick transmits Powassan, which is a rare infection that’s on the rise, with 33 cases in 2017 alone. There are currently no vaccines or treatments for Powassan virus infection, so hospitalization is imperative to help with breathing complications and brain swelling.

The most peculiar tick-borne disease on the list, alpha-gal syndrome, occurs when the alpha-gal sugar molecule – often found in red meats like beef and pork – is transmitted into the human body. This molecule has been associated with the bite of the lone star tick, transmitted through saliva. Studies are still ongoing to find a specific link between alpha-gal syndrome and ticks, but the result for a human can be a tick-caused red meat allergy.

Tick-borne illnesses can also be transported overseas. U.S. military personnel and their family members deploy to various regions of the world, where they can be exposed to arthropod-borne diseases that the rest of the U.S. population does not encounter.

“These deployments expose service members and families to novel pathogens which may be introduced in the U.S. when infected personnel redeploy back home,” Wanja said.

Luckily, there are various ways to reduce the chances of getting tick-borne infections. They include avoiding areas where ticks may be found and checking for ticks if someone conducts activities that might bring them into tick-prone areas.

Use of skin-topical repellents and treated clothing, wearing of pants tucked in shoes and boots, and proper removal of ticks to avoid pathogens being injected into the body can also prevent the spread of these illnesses.

For more prevention tips and ways to identify different bugs and bites, visit the Military Health System’s Bug Week page.


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  1. Not mentioned here is another disease that is quite deadly. The US Army has used it in biological warfare testing. It is very lethal if dispersed in aerosol form. It is tularemia, usually carried by deer and wood ticks. Also called rabbit fever, it is not to be treated with anything but gentamicin. Use of other antibiotics will mask the deterioration of body organs, wherein it looks as if the patient is responding favorably, but will suddenly crash with multiple organ failure if not caught quickly.

    • My brother was tick bit and went through the whole process, luckily my family intervened (changed hospitals) when he was put at rick by doctors unfamiliar with this disease, one going so far as to refuse to run tick panels, insisting that his ailment was not tick bite related. It took almost a month from bite to near death. Even doctors familiar with tularemia are not truly informed. The doctor that successfully treated my brother suggested that he probably contracted it from brush hogging and possibly hitting an infected rabbit. Which makes no sense, since there was a history of an infected tick bite. Also, as per the USA biological warfare, aerosolized tularemia is very nearly non-treatable, as it hits the lungs directly. The lungs are the eventual destination even from tick bite, but requires time to attack the lungs, which is why my brother is still alive. I use oregano oil on every bite/sting…wasps,mosquito, ticks and even chiggars. Extremely powerful antibiotic and anti-irritant.

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