Know the Symptoms of These Tick-Borne Diseases
Ticks arebecoming more commonin many parts of the US, and it’s good toknow the ticks in your areasince there are different kinds. It’s also good to know the symptoms of common tick-borne diseases, just in case you get bitten and start to feel under the weather.
This list doesn’t include all of the diseases that ticks can carry (there are a lot), but we’ve tried to include the most common ones, as well as some rare ones that have gotten some media coverage. If someone dies of a rare tick-borne disease, local news is on it. But it’s important to remember that rare diseases are rare. You don’t need to panic, but you probably should use bug spray and check yourself for ticks anyway.
Many tick-borne diseases are hard to diagnose because they are rare and because the symptoms aren’t always very specific. If you have a fever and don’t know why, go to the doctor—and be sure to mention if you’ve recently found a tick embedded in your skin.
How common is it?It’s one of the more common tick-borne diseases, with 8.7 confirmed cases per 100,000 people per year in the US. But that’s an average—in some states, like Vermont, the rate is 10 times higher.
Where can you catch it? Lyme disease is most common in the northeast US and the great lakes area, although there are scattered cases in other parts of the country.
What are the symptoms? Fever, headache, fatigue, and often but not always a skin rash in a large bullseye shape surrounding the bite. These symptoms may show up days or weeks after you’re bitten. Later, there may be joint pain, numbness, tingling, and facial palsy. It can be treated with antibiotics.
How common is it? Compared to Lyme, it’s rare, with fewer than 1 case per 100,000 people per year in states where it occurs.
Where can you catch it? The range is similar to Lyme, with cases occurring most commonly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey and New England.
What are the symptoms? Weeks to months after the tick bite, symptoms may include fever, malaise, fatigue, and gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and loss of appetite. The disease is caused by a parasite, Babesia microti, that lives inside red blood cells. Many people who get it will never notice, but in people with weakened immune systems it can be serious or even fatal. It can be treated with antibiotics.
How common is it? It’s rare, with only 1,642 cases reported in 2017.
Where can you catch it? Anywhere in the range of the Lone Star tick, which occurs in the eastern half of the US, especially the southeast.
What are the symptoms? Fever, headache, and muscle aches may start within a week or two of the bite. In severe cases, the disease can affect the brain, causing confusion. Ehrlichiosis can become serious or fatal in some people if untreated. It can be treated with antibiotics.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
How common is it? There were over 6,000 cases in 2017, which is still pretty rare - about 17 cases per million people in the states where it is most common.
Where can you catch it? Nearly anywhere in the contiguous US, but the states where it’s most common are North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri.
What are the symptoms? Fever, headache, muscle pain, and stomach pain, occurring two to five days after the bite. Untreated, this disease (and its close relatives, known together as the spotted fever rickettsioses) can be life threatening. It can be treated with antibiotics.
How common is it? It’s rare. There are only a few hundred cases a year in the US, and this is one of the few tick borne diseases that’s actually getting less common.
Where can you catch it? Anywhere in the US, but it’s most common in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma...and Martha’s Vineyard, for some reason.
What are the symptoms? Symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhea, headaches, joint pain, and weakness, starting a few days after the tick bite. In rare cases, it can become life threatening. It can be treated with antibiotics.
How common is it? Very rare, with only 33 cases reported in 2017.
Where can you catch it? It’s most commonly reported in the US from the northeast and the great lakes region.
What are the symptoms? Fever, headache, and vomiting are early symptoms, but in serious cases it can lead to life-threatening inflammation of the brain.
Bourbon virus and Heartland virus
How common is it? Extremely rare, so if you read the recent article about Bourbon virus that labeled it a “mystery killer virus,” it’s not time to panic. The CDC has counted 30 cases, total, of Heartland virus so far. Both are so rare they’re not yet well understood.
What are the symptoms? Fever, fatigue, headache, body aches, and nausea seem to be common early symptoms.