TickBorneDiseases

Tick-borne diseases (TBDs) are those which are transmitted through ticks. The ticks act as vectors for a number of diseases like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, tularemia, Q fever, and tick paralysis.

The ticks act as carriers and transmitters of various bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and other germs that cause these diseases. Not all ticks can be infected with germs. Only the ones that are infected, pose the risk of disease to humans.

TBDs are common in some geographical areas. Tick density, the overall number of ticks in the area, and tick infection rate, the proportion of ticks infected with germs, determine the prevalence of TBDs in an area.

Inhabitants in such areas are at higher risk of infections. The extent of exposure of humans in these areas is dependent upon the activities they are involved in. People who venture outdoors for recreation or occupation are at increased risk to be bitten by ticks and hence for the risk of diseases transmitted by them. Thus, people engaged in construction, forestry, oil fields, farming, wildlife management, and landscaping are at increased risk.

Symptoms

TBDs have some common symptoms. They are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Body aches
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rash
  • Ulcer

Other complaints may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Pain abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Stiff neck
  • Facial paralysis

The symptoms may range from mild to severe; the latter may need hospitalization.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is generally clinical based upon the presenting symptoms. Complaints in people known to be engaged in vulnerable activities or staying in geographic regions with tick populations are viewed with suspicion.

Laboratory tests help to supplement the clinical diagnosis.

Blood test may reveal a low count of different blood cells.

Specific tests for infections include those that measure the amounts of antibodies. These are specific proteins produced in the body in response to infections and these help to fight infections.

Specific protein components of invading germs may be tested in the blood. The tests for such analysis include western blot, enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), immune fluorescent assay (IFA), and polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

In some cases, the causative organisms may be isolated from blood or other samples, and grown in the laboratory to study their characteristics. This is called culture.

Below mentioned are a few medicines for the treatment of lyme disease.

TBDs are treated with medicines called antibiotics. These help to fight infection by either checking the multiplication of or by killing the causative germs.

Some antibiotics used in various TBDs are amoxicillin, doxycycline, chloramphenicol, rifampin, tetracycline, or streptomycin. These should be taken as advised by the doctor and for the prescribed duration.

TBDs can be prevented by exercising some precautions.

  • It is good to avoid areas with high density of ticks.
  • When working or going to such areas, wood or bushy areas should be avoided.
  • Walking through grass and leaf litter should be avoided.
  • Bushes should be cleared around the house.
  • Old furniture and trash should be removed from the yard.
  • Toys and swings of children should be kept away from trees and yard fencing.
  • The lawns should be mowed regularly to prevent the grass from excessive growth.
  • Chemical repellents with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or permethrin are known to be effective.
  • Clothes, boots, belongings, tents, etc can be treated with permethrin.
  • Products containing 20% or more DEET can be applied on the skin. These should be used as per the instructions on the label. These afford protection for several hours.
  • Bathing or showering after every visit outdoors can reduce the risk of infections. The ticks can be looked for on the body and picked up to remove them.
  • Light color clothing should be worn so that the ticks can be easily identified when seen crawling on the body.
  • Ticks should never be squeezed or crushed while removing them, as harmful materials from them can infect the skin.
  • Clothes may be tumbled in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill the ticks.
  • A full-body tick check may be done with a hand-held mirror.
  • Children should be screened for ticks around the arms, in and around the ears, belly button, between legs, and in hair.
  • Ticks may get stuck to the fur of pets like dogs. Tick diseases in dogs are a common condition. Any pets should be regularly checked for ticks. Pet should be kept under watch for any change in behavior if suspected to have been bitten by a tick.
  • They should be taken to a veterinarian for management and precaution.
  • These precautions are more essential for people living or working in regions with high tick densities.
  • These are more important in the warm months from April to September as ticks are more active in this time of the year.

Tick borne diseases, although not serious, may be very troublesome. If you stay in a region known to have tick populations, take care that you, your children, and your pets are safe from tick borne diseases. People should be watchful of the symptoms, if any appear, consultation with a doctor is necessary. Most of the tick borne diseases can be treated effectively.