Tick Borne Diseases
Lyme disease is an illness caused by a spirochete, a corkscrew shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are spread by the bite of an infected tick (Ixodes scapularis) commonly known as the deer tick. The tick is about the size of a poppy seed (or the period at the end of a sentence) when in its nymphal (immature) stage.
The Redding Health Department has identified Lyme disease as the most commonly reported disease in Redding. The woodsy character of Redding along with its current overpopulation of deer increases the risk of exposure to deer ticks.
Signs, Symptoms, Treatment
Early Lyme disease symptoms include a ring like rash (bulls’ eye) that may surround the area of the bite. The rash slowly enlarges and generally is not itchy. Other symptoms include flu like symptoms: fatigue, headache, fever, chills, and achy muscle and joints (not like a cold with sore throat, cough, and runny nose).
Later symptoms may include arthritis, neurological problems, and heart problems. Lyme disease is usually treated with oral antibiotics for a few weeks in its early stages, which is often effective. Some may experience symptoms and others may not. Contact your physician if symptoms occur. Early response to symptoms with prompt treatment helps prevent complications.
Just when you thought Lyme disease was enough to be concerned about, Anaplasmosis/Ehrlichiosis has quickly emerged as another tick borne disease to be aware of. Adding to the confusion Ehrlichiosis was reclassified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2003 and is now known as Anaplasmosis. The distribution of the Anaplasmosis infection in Connecticut very much mirrors that of Lyme disease.
Signs, Symptoms, Treatment
Anaplasmosis symptoms generally include fever, chills, sweats, severe headache, fatigue, and muscle aches.
Other signs might include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, joint pains, and confusion.
A rash is uncommon but can occasionally occur. Symptoms usually appear within 1-2 weeks of a tick bite.
It’s usually treated with doxycycline.
The severity of Anaplasmosis is partly related to the health of the immune system of the patient. It’s possible that those who become infected develop only mild symptoms and do not become ill at all. The transmission of Anaplasmosis from an infected engorged tick can occur within 24 hours, unlike Lyme disease, which usually takes longer (24-48 hours). The important thing is to not ignore or tolerate symptoms. Anaplasmosis can be a severe illness, and sometimes fatal if left untreated.
Babesiosis is a newly recognized disease in humans and is transmitted to humans through the bite of a deer tick, the same tick that transmits Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. It was previously only documented in wild and domestic animals such as cattle. The first human case in the US was recognized in 1968.
Signs, Symptoms, Treatment
The symptoms for Babesiosis are nonspecific, and can range from very mild to very severe and even fatal in 5% of cases.
Patients who become sick generally experience fever, sweats, muscle or joint pain, jaundice, and malaise.
Less frequent symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, headache, shaking chills, and skin rash.
Symptom on-set is usually within 1-4 weeks of the tick bite. Many experience only mild symptoms and do not become sick enough to require treatment. If you become ill after a tick bite be sure to seek medical attention.
Antibiotics are typically used to treat Babesiosis, however treatment is not free from potential risks and side-effects, and it is generally reserved for severe cases or for those with compromised immune systems.
Co-infections are possible. This means, you can become infected with Lyme-disease and Anaplasmosis, and/or Babesiosis with one bite of an infected tick.
How to Dress to Avoid a Bite
Ticks are picked up on lower extremities; concentrate efforts there.
Wear light colored clothing. This makes it easier to spot ticks on clothes.
Wear long pants and long sleeve shirts.
Tuck pants into socks to prevent ticks from crawling inside. Tuck shirt into pants, this creates a barrier.
Tuck hair under a hat, long hair should be braided.
Check clothing and skin very carefully (especially thighs, groin, arms, underarms, leg and scalp) after being outdoors.
Uses an EPA approved tick repellent and wash it off when you come home.
Permethrin-based repellent such as Permadone or Duranon, which is applied to clothing as opposed to skin and lasts up to 2 weeks. This product kills ticks.
Deet, in concentrations between 30-40%, is applied to skin and repels ticks. Talk to your pediatrician about the safest, most effective products for children. Follow product directions.
- Brush clothing off outside and check for loose ticks.
- Put clothes in plastic bags until taking them to the laundry do not leave clothes on the floor. Ticks can live in the house for a few days depending on humidity.
- Put clothes in a dryer on high heat for 15-20 minutes. Ticks can survive the washing machine, but they cannot tolerate the heat.
- Comb out hair with a fine toothcomb.
- Use your fingers and feel for ticks, especially in the hair.
- Take a shower or bath and blow dry hair with high heat.
- Check again the next morning, ticks take several hours to feed and may be easier to see or feel as they become engorged with blood.
- Use a pair of bent, needle nose tweezers.
- Put it as close to the skin/tick juncture (bite site) and with a gentle, steady pull, remove the tick from the area.
- Do not use bare hands when removing the tick.
- Do not squeeze the tick’s abdomen or you may inject more bacteria into the site.
- Clean the area with alcohol and wash your hands.
- If the removed tick was engorged and possibly attached for more than 36 hours you should contact your physician and have the tick tested by the Redding Health Department.
Ticks that have been engorged and removed should be delivered to the Health Department promptly in a zip lock bag to be tested for Lyme disease.
In approximately three weeks the Health Department receives tick test results stating if the tick is infected with Lyme disease. Then the resident is notified.
CAUTION: If a rash or symptoms develop (see Signs, Symptoms above), do not wait for tick test results. See your physician. Record the date and site from which the tick was removed.
Modify your property so it is less attractive to animals that are hosts to ticks by: eliminating bird feeders, keep stone walls tidy. Stone walls are mouse and chipmunk habitats.
- Remove Japanese Barberry bushes, which have been shown to be tick habitat.
- Keep lawns mowed.
- Remove leaf litter, adult ticks harbor here over winter.
- Trim shrubs and bushes so ticks cannot brush the legs of people who pass by.
- Pesticides can be used for tick control, consulting a licensed professional to learn about the least toxic, most effective application techniques.
Lyme can be prevented on a regional level by reducing the tick population which spreads the disease. The blacklegged or deer tick is dependent on the white tailed deer for successful reproduction. The adult female tick needs a 3 day blood meal from the deer before she can lay her 2000 or more eggs. The deer and tick populations have played a role in tick-borne disease cases the past 15 years. Some communities have successfully reduced their Lyme to nearly zero by reducing the deer population back to healthy levels of 10 deer per square mile (from the current 30 or more per square mile). According to national tick expert Dr. Kirby Stafford, chief entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Station, “Reducing deer densities to below 10 to 12 per square mile has been shown to substantially reduce tick numbers and human Lyme disease.”
Redding is a member of the 15-town Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance, which advocates a cooperative approach to deer population reduction. More information on Lyme disease, deer ticks, the deer population, and the importance of keeping deer numbers under control can be found at their web site www.deeralliance.com. Brochures on Lyme disease, deer management, and ways to discourage deer and ticks from your property are available in the Redding Health Department (938-2559).
For more information and literature, call the Redding Health Dept., 938-2559.