Though it is the most recognizable of tick-borne diseases, Lyme is not the only disease spread by ticks to humans, dogs, and cats. Here are a few you should be aware of:
• Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF): RMSF is a bacterial disease that begins with a fever, headache, and rash. If not treated early with the right antibiotic, it can be deadly. RMSF is known to be spread by several tick species.
• Babesiosis: Common in the Northeast, babesiosis is known to be transmitted by deer ticks. An infection of babesia usually does not come with symptoms but it can lead to hemolytic anemia from the destruction of red blood cells in the body.
• Anaplasmosis: This is a disease primarily caused by a bacterium known as Anaplasma phagocytophilum, which is spread by deer ticks.
A lesser version of this disease is caused by the bacterium Anaplasma platys, which is spread by brown dog ticks. In a dog, it can produce lameness, lethargy, fever, joint pain, and a lack of appetite, in its early stage.
Symptoms usually only last 1 to 7 days. In some cases, symptoms can be much worse, depending on the type of bacterium and other factors. In humans, it can cause flu-like symptoms and, in rare cases, progress to respiratory issues, organ failure, and death.
• Ehrlichiosis: The symptoms of this disease may include fever, chills, lethargy, lack of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, bruising or bleeding, eye inflammation, lameness and neurological abnormalities for dogs and cats.
When contracted by a human, symptoms tend to be fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and sometimes confusion. In children, a rash is common. Early treatment can reduce the risk of developing severe illness and prevent death in both humans and pets.
Other diseases to be aware of are tularemia, Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), 364D rickettsiosis, rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, Powassan disease, Heartland virus and Colorado tick fever. All of these come with their own risks and symptoms.
Do you think you have Lyme or one of these other diseases? Bring evidence to your physician. Capture the tick and take a photo if you see a bullseye rash on your skin. These will prompt your medical care provider to take appropriate action to counter tick-borne diseases.
How Ticks Get Into Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. Yards
Your backyard is the frontline in the war on tick-borne diseases. Before ticks get on your pets or on you, they are brought into your yard by wildlife.
There are many animal pests that put you at risk for exposure. The most noteworthy is the common house mouse. A mouse can have as many as a hundred seed ticks on it.
Seed ticks are six-legged tick larvae that develop on a small host and then drop off to find a larger host. They begin with small animals like mice and rats then graduate to cats, dogs, and even humans.
So it is never good to have rodents in your yard, and even worse to have them in your home.
Several animals are considered pest animals. You've probably dealt with a few over the years. Have your trash cans been knocked over by a raccoon?
Has your dog been sprayed by a skunk? Have you had the displeasure of sharing your backyard with a mound-making, plant-eating, groundhog?
All of these animals can bring ticks into your yard. There is, however, one animal pest that is considered to be an exception. It is the opossum. Not only are opossums poor reservoirs for Lyme disease, but they eat ticks and the rodents that carry ticks.
But before you start thinking that opossums can take care of your tick control, you should know that they lack commitment and thoroughness. It is best to leave this important job to human pest control professionals.
Tick Bites and Where They’re Found
Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what bug bit you. If you have a red, itchy lesion on your skin, it could be a tick bite. But other bugs can cause a bite like that.
The easiest way to tell that you've been bitten by a tick is when you see a bullseye rash on your skin. But a bullseye rash is a sign of a Lyme disease infection.
So this is definitely not the way to find you you've been bitten by a tick. Early detection is best.