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Vital to Know Tick Diseases

Where they live, diseases they carry, and symptoms you NEED to know.

by Derek Benoit July 21st, 2021

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This article describes:

  • Tick species of the lower 48 states
  • Diseases commonly carried by them
  • Critical symptoms to know for each disease

NOTE: disease occurrences and distribution within regions can be localized in “pockets,” and not necessarily continuous across a region. Additionally, just because a species or disease has not been reported in any given county in a general region does not mean necessarily that such are not present in that area.

Lyme Disease Map, CDC, Timezonemapworld.blogspot.com, 2020

(Lyme Disease Map, 2020).

Tick Species & Diseases they Carry

For visual references to tick distributions, please follow the link below:

https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html

American Dog (Wood) Tick

2021 Distribution: CA/OR border south to US/Mexico border, west of Sierra Nevada and California Cascade mountains. From eastern MT southward through central TX, eastward through the entirety of states from ME through FL.

2021 Confirmed Diseases Carried: Tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever. (CDCn, 2021)

Asian Long Horn Tick

First collected in 2010, was identified in 2017 in NJ. Such is likely transported to the US via shipping of imported animals and goods. Often discovered in US ports. Confirmed reports of human hosts began in 2018. (Nagy, 2020; Rutguers University OoC, 2020).

2021 Distribution: Reported as far west as northwest AR,cetraland eastern KY, TN, WV, VA, central and western NC and SC,  PA, DE, NJ, southeastern NY, including Long Island, coastal CT and RI.(Tufts, et al, 2021).

2021 Confirmed Diseases Carried: no human disease cases as of mid-July, 2020 in the US. Serious human disease vector in Asia. (Nagy, 2020)

Black Legged (Deer) Tick

2021 Distribution: ND south through central TX, entirety of states eastward, through FL and up through ME.

2021 Confirmed Diseases Carried: Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Powassan virus, Ehrlichia muris eauclairensis, B. miyamotoi (CDCn, 2021)

Spraying a field for ticks. Credit Shutterstock.com

Brown Dog Tick

2021 Distribution: entire contiguous lower 48 states

2021 Confirmed Diseases Carried: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in southwestern US and US/Mexico border region. (CDCn, 2021)

Gulf Coast Tick

2021 Distribution: from TX/Mexico border eastward along gulf coast, all of Florida, up through the Chesapeake Bay area, east of the Appalachian Mountains. From Southeast KS, extreme Southern MO, most of OK, AR, LA, MS, and AL.

2021 Confirmed Diseases Carried: Rickttsia parkeri rickettsiosis (CDCn, 2021)

Lone Star Tick

This tick is named for white dot on back of females, not state of TX

2021 Distribution: Southeast NE, south to US/Mexico border through central TX, eastward through entirety of states south of MI, through cental NY, to the entire eastern seaboard.

2021 Confirmed Diseases Carried: Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii, Heartland virus, tularemia, STARI. (CDCn, 2021)

Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

2021 Distribution: US mountain west, eastern side of Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada Mountains, to western ND, down through all of NV,  northern AZ and NM.

2021 Confirmed Diseases Carried: tularemia, Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (CDCn, 2021)

Western Black Legged (Deer) Tick

2021 Distribution: entirety of US Pacific coast, west of Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains, especially northern CA. Pockets in northeaster OR/southeastern WA, southern NV, northwester AZ, and most of UT.

2021 Confirmed Diseases Carried: Lyme disease, anaplasmosis (CDCn, 2021)

Tick Distribution Maps by Species (CDCn, 2021)

For more information on what to do if you encounter a tick attached to you, a loved one, or a pet, follow this link:

Backyards are just as good of tick habitat as any field or forest. Photo by Derek Benoit

Must Know Tick Diseases and their Symptoms

this is NOT an all-inclusive list of every potential tick-vectored illness. These are the more common diseases.

1.) Alpha-gal Syndrome:

Symptoms vary from mild, to life threatening. Reactions occur 3-6 hours post meat consumption or consumption of products containing alpha-gal. Consequently, anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock are serious possibilities!

  • Rash across some, or much of skin
  • Tightening of throat, breathing difficulties
  • Hives
  • Low BP
  • Terrible stomach pain
  • Feeling faint (Forsyth, 2019; CDCa, 2020)

2.) Anaplasmosis:

Fortunately, life-threatening illness is not as common with anaplasmosis as with other rickettsial diseases like RMSF or Rickttsia parkeri. Symptoms typically being 5-14 days post infection.

  • Severe headache
  • Fever & chills
  • Rigors (quit, hard hitting spikes in temperature, with chills)
  • Myalgia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash is uncommon (CDCb, 2020)

3.) Babesiosis:

This parasitic infection is a risk all year. It takes a week to a couple of months for symptoms to emerge.

  • Nausea (sometimes vomiting, abdominal pain)
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Myalgia
  • Dark urine
  • Splenomegaly
  • Jaundice
  • Hepatomegaly
  • Cough with sore throat
  • Light sensitivity
  • Big, quick-rising emotional swings (often out of character) (CDCc, 2019)

4.) Borrelia-miyamotoi disease:

incubation period is generally unknown

  • Severe headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Myalgia/arthralgia
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rash
  • Dyspnea CDCd, 2019)

Credit Shutterstock.com

4.) Colorado tick fever:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Lethargy
  • Spot-like rashes in some patients
  • 50% of patients experience a relapse in symptoms 1-3 days past observed improvement
  • Mylalgia
  • Lymphodenopathy
  • Infection of the uvula, tonsils, white pustules, usually with a gray tongue
  • Redness in the white of the eyes (CDCe, 2019)

5.) Ehrlichia

The typical incubation period is 5-14 days.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in mental status-acting out of character
  • Rash, usually in kids (CDCf, 2020)

6.) Heartland & Burbon virus disease:

IF the patient is aware of a tick bite, symptoms typically begin two weeks after the bite.

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased apetite
  • Myalgia (CDCg, 2019)

7.) Lyme Disease:

First, we must make clear that the classic “red bullseye” rash does not always appear. Moreover, estimates of rash occurrence (including “bullseye”) vary wildly.  Only an estimated 20 to 70% of patients presented with any identifiable rash. Many patients never realized they were bitten (Radovsky, 2016).

Unfortunately, symptoms have a wide range of incubation time. Specifically, as little as 3 or as many as 30 days. Additionally, the disease usually presents in stages. Consequently, symptoms can mirror a wide range of other diseases.

Localized Stage

  • Ring-like or expanding rash (NOT ALWAYS PRESENT)
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • MAY NOT RESULT IN A POSITIVE LYME TEST

Disseminated Stage

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Secondary rashes
  • POSITIVE LYME TEST

Arthritis-Like Symptoms

  • Pain in joints that comes and goes
  • Effusion of joints (fluid buildup)
  • Can result in chronic arthritis

Neurological Presentations

  • Bell’s palsy or other neurological issues of the head, face
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Meningitis
  • Difficulty with movement
  • Sensory issues like pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in arms or legs
  • Problems with reflex (CDCh, 2020, John Hopkins Medicine 2021)

Cardiac Presentations

  • Myocarditis
  • Pericarditis
  • Electrical signaling problems

Additional Symptoms

  • Hepatitis
  • Splenomegaly
  • Inflammation within the eye
  • Keratitis (CDCh, 2020)

8.) Powassan virus:

The incubation period can varies wildly, from 1-4 weeks.

  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Often progresses to meningo encephalitis (similar symptoms to meningitis) (CDCi, 2019)

9.) Rickttsia parkeri rickettsiosis:

This is a close relative to R. rickettsii, the bacteria responsible agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Moreover, symptoms are similar except for inoculation eschar, a wound at the bite site. Such is not common in RMSF.

  • Inoculation eschar-bullet-like wound at bite site
  • See RMSF symptoms (CDCk, 2019)

10.) Rocky Mountain spotted fever:

Early (Days 1-4):

  • Inoculation eschar-bullet-like wound at bite site
  • Headache
  • Rash 2-5 days following start of symptoms. Small pink spots begin to appear on forearms, wrists, ankles. Later, upper body, possibly hands and feet show the same.
  • Muscle aches
  • HIGH Fever
  • Edema on the back of the hands, and about the eyes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Late (on and after Fifth Day):

  • Rash looks darker, red or purple. The spots often increases in size.
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Altered mental and cognitive status, coma
  • Damage to multiple organs
  • Bite area can become necrotic (CDCj, 2020)

11.) Tickborne relapsing fever:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Arthralgia
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Myalgia
  • Sometimes facial palsy (CDCl, 2019)

12.) Tularemia:

While incubation period ranges from a day to three weeks, symptoms usually occur within 3-5 days of infection.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest discomfort with cough
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Myalgia (CDCm, 2020)

Symptoms of the Eye and Lymph Nodes

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Watery eyes
  • Lymphadenopothy in multiple lymph systems

Symptoms of Major Glands in the Body

  • Localized lymphadenopathy
  • Skin ulcers at bite site

Pneumonia-Like Symptoms

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Chest pain
  • Cough that doesn’t eject much mucus

Symptoms of the Mouth and Throat

  • Tonsilitis
  • Severe sore throat
  • Pharyngitis
  • Lymphadenopathy behind the pharynx, in the neck, or preparotid areas

Symptoms Similar to Typhoid Fever

  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Cough
  • GI problems
  • Some patients develop flat, rose-colored rashes

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References:

CDCa. (reviewed October 6th, 2020) Alpha-gal Syndrome. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/alpha-gal/index.html

CDCb (reviewed October 1st, 2020). Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Anaplasmosis. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Anaplasmosis. CDC.gov..https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/anaplasmosis.html

CDCc. (reviewed January 10th, 2019).  Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Babesiosis. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Babesiosis. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/babesiosis.html

CDCd. (reviewed January 10th, 2019). Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Borrelia-miyamotoi. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Borrelia-miyamotoi. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/borrelia-miyamotoi.html

CDCe. (reviewed January 10th, 2019). Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Colorado tick fever. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Colorado tick fever. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/ctf.html

CDCf. (reviewed October 1st, 2020). Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Ehrlichia.. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Ehrlichia.  CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/ehrlichiosis.html

CDCg. (reviewed January 10th, 2019). Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Heartland & Burbon virus. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Heartland & Burbon virus. CDC.gov. disease https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/heartland-virus.html

CDCh. (reviewed October 1st, 2020). Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Lyme Disease. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Lyme Disease. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/lyme.html

CDCi. (reviewed January 10th, 2019). Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Powassan Virus Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Powassan virus. CDC.gov. Powassan virus. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/powassan.html

CDCj. (reviewed October 1st, 2020). Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Rocky Mountain spotted fever. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/rmsf.html

CDCk. (reviewed January 10th, 2019). Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Rickttsia Parkeri Rickettsiosis. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Rickttsia parkeri rickettsiosis CDC.gov.  https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/rickettsiosis.html

CDCl. (reviewed January 10th, 2019). Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Tickborne Relapsing Fever. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Tickborne relapsing fever. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/rickettsiosis.html

CDCm. (reviewed October 1st, 2020).  Tickborne Diseases of the United States: Tularemia. Ticks Home. Tickborn Diseases of the United States. Tularemia.CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/tularemia.html

CDCn.(reviewed May 27th, 2021). Regions Where Ticks Live.  Ticks Home. Regions Where Ticks Live. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html

Forsyth, S. (2019). Ticks and Alpha-Gal Syndrome: What you Need to Know to Protect Yourself. Alpha-gal Information. Alphagalinformation.org. https://alphagalinformation.org/ticks-and-ags/

Lyme Disease Map 2020. (2020). Timezonesmapworld.blogspot.com. https://timezonesmapworld.blogspot.com/2019/06/lyme-disease-map-2020.html

John Hopkins Medicine (2021). Health Home. Conditions and Diseases. Radiculopathy. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/radiculopathy

Nagy, S. (updated by Lovejoy, T, January 11th, 2020).Asian Longhorned Tick Found in Caldwell County. North Carolina Cooperative Extension. North Carolina State Unversity, Caldwell, NC. Caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu. https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu/2021/01/asian-longhorned-tick-found-in-caldwell-county/

Radovsky, L. (March 16th 2016) Tick Attachment Times and Other Lyme Disease Myths. Focus-Opinions and Features. Lymedisease.org. https://www.lymedisease.org/lyme-disease-myths/

Rutgers University Office of Communication (July 22nd, 2020). Where did Asian Longhorn Ticks in the US Come From? Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Exeriment Station School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Rutgers, the State University of NJ. New Brunswick, NJ. https://sebsnjaesnews.rutgers.edu/2020/07/where-did-the-asian-longhorned-ticks-in-the-u-s-come-from/

Tufts, et al. (2021). National Haemaphysalis Longicornis (Asian Longhorn Tick) Status Report. Animal and Plant Inspection Service. US Department of Agriculture. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_diseases/tick/downloads/longhorned-tick-sitrep.pdf

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