While mosquitoes are the most deadly animal on the planet, spreading diseases that have caused millions of deaths, there’s another creepy crawly that causes its fair share of illness as well: ticks.
Like spiders, ticks are arachnids with eight legs. As external parasites, they feed on the blood of humans, as well as other mammals and birds. Some tick species even feed on reptiles! While ticks can be found around the world, they particularly thrive in warm, humid climates.
Ticks belong to two separate families: hard ticks and soft ticks. Hard ticks have a beak-like structure at the front of their body which contains the mouthparts they use to feed with. Soft ticks, on the other hand, have mouthparts on the underside of their body.
While ticks are nearly impossible to avoid, there are ways you can prevent getting bitten, including wearing long socks while spending time outdoors. If you do notice an increase of ticks on your property, make sure to contact your local pest control company for help getting rid of them.
How Do Ticks Cause Diseases?
Ticks can cause a number of diseases. Unlike some other dangerous insects, ticks can transmit diseases that are viral, bacterial, or parasitic, making them transmitters of multiple, vastly different, diseases. Diseases can be spread when a tick feeds and transmits pathogens into their host.
Below, we’ll go into detail about some of the most common tick-borne diseases, their signs, and what to do if you have been bitten by a tick.
Common Tick-Borne Diseases
This is likely the most well-known tick-borne disease. Lyme disease is transmitted by the blacklegged tick and is most common in the northeastern and midwestern United States. However, we do have blacklegged ticks in our neck of the woods as well!
These ticks are recognizable by their black legs and reddish-brown body, which often has a black circle in the middle of the back.
The most noticeable symptom of Lyme disease is a rash called erythema migrans, which looks like a bullseye and can appear up to a month after a tick bite. Other symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, and fatigue. While most Lyme disease cases can be treated with antibiotics, it is important to seek medical care as soon as you notice symptoms and have been exposed to a tick.
This bacterial disease is most often spread from the blacklegged tick, just like Lyme disease. Anaplasmosis is a relatively common tick-borne disease in California and can cause death or serious illness if left untreated.
Symptoms of anaplasmosis typically appear 1-2 weeks after a tick bite and include fever, chills, severe headaches, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. At later stages of the disease, an infected person may experience respiratory failure, organ failure, and death.
The most common treatment for this disease is antibiotics. If you have any of the symptoms above and know you have recently been bitten by a tick or have been spending time in brush, high grass, and wooded areas, you should make a trip to your doctor.
Though not very common in the Sacramento area where our pest control company is located, ehrlichiosis can still occur here. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms plus confusion. Children and some adults can also experience a rash. If left untreated, ehrlichiosis can result in brain and nervous system damage, respiratory failure, uncontrolled bleeding, and death.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
This serious illness is spread by the Rocky Mountain wood tick and by the American dog tick. If left untreated, or if treated with the wrong antibiotics, this disease can become deadly. The most recommended antibiotic for Rocky Mountain spotted fever is doxycycline.
In severe cases, patients may need amputation of limbs or digits due to damage to the blood vessels, and can experience paralysis, hearing loss, or mental disability. The symptoms are similar to all of the ones listed above, with the addition of a blotchy, spotty rash which gives the disease its name.
Yet another disease spread by the blacklegged tick, Powassan is a virus that has been occurring more frequently in recent years. In most cases, Powassan infections are not severe. However, for the few instances where it is severe, it can quickly become life-threatening. Initial symptoms can include fever, headache, and vomiting. Later symptoms can include confusion, seizures, loss of coordination, and infection of the brain and spinal cord. While there is no treatment for Powassan, severe symptoms can be managed in a hospital with breathing support, IV hydration, and reduction of swelling in the brain.
Babesiosis is a parasitic tick infection that affects the red blood cell. Spread by blacklegged ticks, this infection can be life-threatening in some situations. While most tick-borne illnesses are spread by adult ticks, this one is most often spread by ticks in the nymph stage. These ticks are very hard to see and are about the size of a poppyseed, meaning you might not even realize you have been bitten. Thankfully, there are treatments for babesiosis if your symptoms become severe.
Symptoms of babesiosis include fever, sweats, body aches, and fatigue. While most people infected with babesiosis do not experience symptoms, those who are at a risk for life-threatening complications include the elderly, those with a weakened immune system, and those who do not have a spleen.
How To Remove A Tick
There are numerous old wife’s tales about the best way to remove a tick. Many of us, as children, were even subject to having a tick burned off with a cigarette butt! Others swear by drowning the tick in petroleum jelly or poking it with a hot needle. Thankfully, there is a simple and effective way to remove ticks that do not involve accidentally burning yourself.
According to the CDC, the best way to remove a tick is to take sharp, fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull upwards with a slow, even pressure, being careful to not jerk the tick away or twist it. Doing so can result in the mouthparts breaking off in the skin. The tick should come off of the skin. Afterward, thoroughly wash your hands and the tick bite with soap and water. It is best to also clean the bite with rubbing alcohol.
Finally, never squish a tick, as this can spread blood and disease. Instead, you can drown the tick in alcohol, flush it down the toilet, or wrap it tightly in tape.
When To See A Doctor About A Tick Bite
As we mentioned earlier, you should consult a doctor about a tick bite if you develop a rash or if you experience any of the symptoms listed above after a known tick bite. If you remove the tick, it is a good idea to take a picture of it in case a doctor later needs to identify what type of tick bit you.
Call Earthwise For Roseville Tick Control
If ticks are invading your home and property, call us. We can take measures to reduce the number of ticks on your property, thereby reducing the likelihood that you will end up with any of the diseases we’ve mentioned above. As your pest control company serving Roseville and the surrounding areas, we are happy to answer any questions you have about tick control.
Get in touch with Earthwise Pest Management today to discuss tick and pest control in the Greater Sacramento area!