Many people erroneously think of ticks as being an insect. However, since ticks have four pairs of legs and no antennae, they are arachnids. At one time, these arachnids were often just a mere nuisance, and when a person found one on their skin, they simply plucked it off and probably didn't give it a second thought.
In recent years, though, the number of people getting tick-borne diseases has steadily been on the rise. This happens all across the United States. In fact, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of tick-borne diseases more than doubled between the years 2004 and 2016.
Unfortunately, the state of California is not immune to diseases that ticks cause. If you live in California and want to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases, here are three of them that all Californians should know about.
1. Lyme Disease
The western black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick, transmits this disease. The deer tick can be found in 56 of the 58 counties in California. Of all the tick-borne disease reported to the CDC between 2004 and 2016, 82% of them were Lyme disease. In the state of California, up to 100 cases of Lyme disease get reported every year.
Because not everyone's case gets reported, health officials say that the number of Lyme disease cases probably exceeds 1,000 a year.
One of the most common symptoms of Lyme disease is a type of rash called erythema migrans. This rash looks like a bulls-eye and can appear anywhere from 3 to 30 days after a tick infects a person.
Other symptoms include:
- Neck stiffness
If the disease goes untreated, other symptoms can appear including joint pain and numbness or weakness of the limbs. Treatment of this tick-borne disease includes oral antibiotics. If the infection has traveled to the nervous system, the antibiotics may need intravenous admittance.
Even after the infection is gone, however, some people never fully recover from the disease and they continue to have symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches.
Commonly referred to as anaplasmosis, this tick-borne disease is not nearly as common as Lyme disease. However, even though 0.2 cases per million persons have been reported in California, health officials warn that this is another tick-borne disease that is steadily on the rise. Across the country, the number of cases reported has gone from 348 in the year 2000 to 5,762 in 2017.
As with Lyme disease, the black-legged tick also causes anaplasmosis. People who are at risk for getting anaplasmosis include those over the age of 40 and those with weakened immune systems. Anyone who spends a lot of time where ticks are is also at a higher risk of getting anaplasmosis and other types of tick-borne diseases.
A person who gets infected with anaplasmosis generally does not get a rash. Symptoms usually appear within one to two weeks of the tick bite. These symptoms include:
- Severe headache
- Muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
If left untreated, this disease can cause serious symptoms, such as respiratory problems and organ failure. The disease has even caused death. Treatment involves an antibiotic called doxycycline.
3. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)
While only a couple of cases of RMSF get reported each year in California, it is one of the more serious tick-borne illnesses. Even though less than one percent of all RMSF cases result in death, this tick-borne disease can cause severe symptoms.
Three different kinds of ticks transmit this disease. These ticks include the American dog tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick. In 2017, over 6,200 cases of RMSF were reported across the country. When not treated within five days of becoming infected, the disease is sometimes fatal.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- A high fever that can last up to 3 weeks
- Poor appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
RMSF can also cause a rash. This rash normally appears 2 to 5 days after the onset of fever and has small red dots on the hands and feet.
A similar tick-borne illness that has become more common in California is another type of spotted fever called Pacific Coast tick fever (PCTF). This disease was first reported in California in 2008. As of 2016, 13 more confirmed cases have been reported. While symptoms are similar to RMSF, they are not as severe.
Treatment for both types of tick-borne spotted fevers includes immediate treatment with doxycycline.
The best prevention against tick-borne diseases is to avoid tick-infested areas and check for ticks after being outdoors. If you find a tick, remove it right away. If you live in an area where ticks exist and want to know how you can get rid of them, contact Greenleaf Organic Pest Management, Inc.