CBS NEWS In warmer weather in spring, the tick season begins. Ticks are most active in the months of April to October and peak in the summer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The bloodsucking insects are not only scary – they can be dangerous and transmit pathogens that cause a number of serious illnesses. Tick-borne diseases are on the rise and that means prevention should be on everyone's lips, experts say.
It is especially important to take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones – including pets – from tick bites at this time of year. 1
One of the biggest dangers of ticks is Lyme disease. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted to humans through the bites of infected, black-legged ticks. These ticks, once restricted to a few areas, have spread to about half of the US states over the last 20 years.
Every year about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC by state health departments It is believed that the number of cases is much higher.
Symptoms of Lyme disease include:
a rash resembling a porthole called erythema migrans
The diagnosis is mainly based on symptoms and the possibility of to have encountered infected ticks, although sometimes laboratory tests are used and may be helpful in some cases.
Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. However, left untreated, the infection can lead to serious long-term complications and even death. This is a big worry because sometimes there is no obvious rash or other symptoms.
Later signs and symptoms of Lyme disease, which can occur days to months after a tick bite, are:
Severe headache and neck stiffness
Additional skin rashes
Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, especially the knees and other major joints
Facial paralysis or loss of muscle tone or drooping on one or both sides of face
Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints and bones
Palpitation or irregular heartbeat
Dizziness or shortness of breath
Brain and spinal cord inflammation
Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
Short-term memory problems
Early interception of Lyme borreliosis is the key to avoiding further complications. Health officials say that people who receive appropriate treatment at early stages usually recover quickly and completely.
If you notice symptoms and suspect that you have been exposed to ticks, contact your doctor immediately.
Other Dangers of Ticks
While Lyme disease is best known, there are other tick-borne diseases to watch out for.
Just this week, officials announced that a tick was discovered in New Jersey that has never been in the US by the thousands. The East Asian tick, sometimes called the longhorn or the bush tick, is known to spread a deadly virus called SFTS, which is a severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome. No cases of the disease have been reported in the US
Symptoms of SFTS include fever, fatigue, feeling cold, headache, nausea, muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, lymph node disease, and conjunctival congestion. In some cases, it can lead to death.
Other tick-borne diseases include Powassan disease, a virus that has been described as "worse than Lyme," but fortunately is rare. Only about 100 cases have been reported to the CDC in the last decade.
Borrelia miyamotoi disease (BMD) can cause fever, severe headaches and body aches. Extreme cases can be deadly.
Two other rare but serious tick-borne diseases are the Rocky Mountain spotted fever that claimed the lives of a 2-year-old Indiana girl last summer, and the very rare Bourbon virus that killed a Missouri woman Month later.
People with these diseases may have symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash while others who have been exposed have no symptoms at all. Therefore, it is important to make contact with the ticks after an outdoor visit and see a doctor if you think you have been exposed to it.
How to be safe from ticks
While some people think they are safe from ticks living in the city, that's not true. You do not have to live in the countryside to get infected with a tick-borne illness.
"There are many green belts and streams that come to the cities and these habitats support deer and ticks very well." John Aucott, director of the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center, told CBS News. "The ticks are really everywhere, unless you live in an incredible urban center where everything is asphalt and concrete."
The CDC recommends the following steps to protect you and your family from ticks:
Avoid forest and fallow land with tall grass and foliage and walk in the middle of the trails.
Use repellents that take 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing for protection lasting up to several hours.
Use products containing permethrin to treat clothing and B. Boots, pants, socks and tents.
bathe or shower as soon as possible after entering the home (preferably within two hours) to wash off and find ticks that crawl on you full body tick check with a hand or full length mirror, to see all body parts after returning from tick infestation.
Examine clothing, equipment and pets for ticks.