As many of you with Lyme Disease may know, the month of May is Lyme Disease Awareness month, and for the month of May, I will be making a weekly blog post (with the exception of the 19th) talking about different topics surrounding Lyme Disease.
*I will also be making weekly videos on my YouTube channel discussing topics surrounding Lyme Disease, I’ll also be daily Vlogging and I have a photo challenge on my Instagram and Twitter for all the lymies who would like to help spread awareness!
This first post is about ticks, and as the main vector of Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne illness, I thought it would be important to learn a bit more about them.
So what is a tick exactly? Ticks are arachnid related to the spider family. There are hundreds of different species of ticks all over the world, many of which can carry bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that can cause disease in humans and animals.
Ticks have four life stages- egg, larva, nymph and adult. They can live to be 2 years old. The larva, nymph, and adults (mostly female), will feed on the blood of a host. Blood is the ticks only food source.
Stage 1- Egg – blood-engorged females lay eggs on the ground typically in late spring. After laying their eggs they will die. A female tick can lay between 3,000 and 6,000 eggs.
Stage 2 – larva – the eggs hatch into larva. The larva will try to find a host to feed on. Once engorged, the larva drops from the host to the ground where they will overwinter and molt. Larva do not carry tick-borne disease when they hatch, the obtain disease-causing pathogens from animals that are infected with the disease. Once a tick is infected with such disease, they feed for a second and third time onto a host and they will transmit the disease.
Stage 3 – Nymph – In the spring of the following year the larvae have now molted and grown into eight-legged nymphs. Peak feeding activity is from May to July but is more than likely longer in different climates. Ticks can sometimes appear at different times during the winter, depending on how warm the climate is. Both larva and nymphs have the potential to become infected with Lyme Disease and Co-infections from mammals when they feed on their blood. The white-footed mouse is a known reservoir for Lyme Disease in North America, as well as chipmunks, and different bird species. The nymphal stage is more likely to transmit the disease to humans and animals due to their small size and the ability of them being so small also makes it much easier to miss when doing tick checks.
Stage 4 – Adults – During the fall, the nymphs molt into adults. Adults attach themselves to large mammals such as dogs, and deer. The females feed on deer and other large mammals, mate, lay eggs and die. If females don’t feed in the fall then they will overwinter and feed in the spring. Adult males attach to a host and wait for females so they can mate. Adult males are not thought to take blood meals as adults but do so during the larva and nymph stages. They are generally not known to transmit disease because of this, but if they do become infected with the disease during the larval stage and bite another animal or human during the nymphal stage then it is possible for them to transmit disease. A frost or cold winter weather does not kill off ticks, and they can be seen occasionally when there are warmer temperatures in the winter. Deer are the principal host for adult ticks and can further spread them over distances. Tick abundance is also linked to deer but deer are not considered competent reservoirs of the disease, scientists give that credit to the white-footed mouse.
So how do you protect yourself from this life destroying arachnids?
Well, it’s best to wear light colored clothing so the ticks are easier to show up if their crawling on you, long pants, tucking your pants into your socks, long sleeves, tucking your shirt into your pants and having your hair up in a bun if you have long hair is a good idea.
A lot of government and health agencies recommend using a bug or tick repellant with DEET in it, but I always found this never worked to keep the ticks off and the smell always made me sick. I’m not even sure if DEET is even effective. You can buy tick repellant that is organic and safe but I don’t know of the effectiveness of it, and I honestly don’t think there isn’t much that can deter ticks.
As soon as you come in from outside, strip off all the clothes you were wearing, throw them in the dryer on high heat for 15 – 20 minutes, this kills any ticks that are on your clothing. Just dumping your clothes into the hamper can cause the ticks to roam around. Doing a tick check after you’ve stripped it important too, as well as combing your hair, ticks love to hide!
Checking pets that have come in from outside is very important. Long haired cats and dogs can harbor a lot of ticks, even if the pets are flead and the flea medicine protects against it, it may not do the best job. Combing through their fur, checking around their head, face, ears, chin, neck, and shoulder blades, this is where I most commonly find ticks on my cats.
So what do you do if you get bit? Remove the tick as soon and safely as possible.
You may have seen articles, and videos on how NOT to remove a tick- like smothering it in vaseline, essential oil, with a flame, twisting the tick while pulling it out, or using your bare hands. Smothering the tick will only cause it to regurgitate its stomach contents into your bloodstream, and using your bare hands carries the risk of getting any of the bacteria the ticks carries onto your skin and your run the risk of touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
What you want to do is grab a pair of pointed tweezers, alcohol, a cotton ball, and a plastic baggie.
First take your tweezers and disinfect them, place the end of your pointy tweezers as close to the skin and head of the tick you can get, do not grasp the tick’s body -squeezing it can cause it to regurgitate or worse break the tick causing the head and mouth parts to be stuck into your skin. After you’ve positioned your tweezers correctly, pull straight up, and place the tick into the plastic baggie and keep it for later, you can even send the tick off for testing or take it to your doctor if symptoms develop. With the cotton ball and alcohol, disinfect the area in which the tick was attached. There are also proper tick removal tweezers and kits that you can get to safely and effectively remove ticks.
If the tick is really bored into your skin and you cannot get it out then go see a doctor as soon as possible, the longer the tick stays attached to you the more likely it is for you to get Lyme Disease and Co-Infections.
There are many different species of ticks in NorthAmerica and around the world. Lyme and tick-borne diseases are not just a North American problem, it has become global.
These are the types of ticks present in North America and the diseases they carry.
- American Dog Tick – transmits, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, and tick paralysis.
- Soft Tick – are ticks that do not have a hard shell they can transmit Tick Relapsing Fever.
- Western Blacklegged Tick – Transmits Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, and is suspected of transmitting Bartonella and Babesia.
- Deer Tick or The Blacklegged Tick – Transmits Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, and Rickettsia. It also carries Bartonella but transmission to humans has not been proven.
- Brown Dog Tick – Transmits Q Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Rickettsia, Bartonella and Babesia.
- Rocky Mountain Wood Tick – Transmits Tularemia, Tick Paralysis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Q Fever, and Colorado Tick Fever.
- The Lone Star Tick – Transmits Rickettsia, Tularemia, Ehrlichia, Q Fever, Tick Paralysis as well as Borrelia Lonestari or STARI an illness nearly identical to Lyme Disease.
In Australia, there is a Lyme-like illness causing people to become sick. Research is underway to identify which species of tick and what bacteria is causing the illness. The Paralysis Tick -which as the name suggest causes paralysis, and transmit tick typhus which is caused by Rickettsia and severe allergic reactions have occurred with tick bites in Australia.
In Europe, there are many different species of ticks that carry and transmit disease to humans. From my research and I may be wrong, the following ticks seem to be the ones that transmit disease the most.
- Ixodes Ricinus or the Castor Bean Tick or Sheep Tick can be found in the UK and can transmit Lyme Disease, Louping Ill, Q Fever, Tick-Borne Encephalitis, Babesia, Anaplasma, Czechoslovakian Encephalitis, Russian Spring-Summer Encephalitis, and Haemorrhagic Fever.
- Ixodes Hexagonus or the Hedgehog Tick can be found in the South-East of the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. The Hedgehog Tick can cause Lyme Disease, Babesia, Tick-Borne Encephalitis, and Rickettsia.
- Ixodes Canisuga, the Fox Tick or Dog Tick can be found widespread throughout Europe, Russia, UK, and Ireland. The Fox Tick can transmit, Lyme Disease, Babesia, Anaplasma, and Rickettsia.
I couldn’t find much info on the types of ticks that transmit TBDs in Asia, Africa or South America, but according to the CDC (I hate using them as a reference), These are some of the Tick-Borne Diseases you can get abroad.
- Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever is found in – Eastern Europe – particularly the former Soviet Union, North Western China, Central Asia, Southern Europe, Africa, The Middle East, and the Indian Sub-Continent.
- Imported Tick-Borne Spotted Fever – Rickettsia infections can be found in Africa.
- Kyasunar Forest Disease – Occurs in Southern India, and is associated with exposure to ticks while harvesting forestry products. A similar virus has been described in Saudia Arabia, known there as Alkhurmora Hemorrhagic Fever Virus.
- Lyme Disease can be contracted worldwide. There are many different strains of Borrelia and the ticks that carry Lyme Disease can be found in Europe and Asia.
- Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever occurs in Western Siberia. It may also be acquired with direct contact with infected muskrats.
- Tick-Borne Encephalitis or TBE occurs in Europe, Asia, Eastern France, Northern Japan, Northern Russia, and Albania. TBE is a flavivirus that is closely related to the Powassan virus. There are three subtypes of TBE , European, Siberian, and Far Eastern.
- Anaplasma, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Tularemia, Tick Relapsing Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Powassan virus can all be obtained internationally as well.
Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne diseases have become a worldwide problem that is only going to get worse with Global Warming. At some point, the prevalence of Tick-Borne disease will be too widespread for the CDC and IDSA to ignore.
Thank you all so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed!